The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says the goal of buccal fat removal is to thin the cheeks.

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Chrissy Teigen has always been an open book. The most recent thing she's getting candid about? Having a buccal fat removal procedure. In a video posted to her Instagram Story over the weekend, the 35-year-old model revealed that she had gone to a facial plastic surgeon to have the buccal fat from her cheeks removed.

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Credit: Getty Images

"no shame in my dr diamond game," she wrote in the video, referencing her doctor, Jason Diamond, MD, of the TV shows Dr. 90210 and Celebrity Plastic Surgeons.

"I did that Dr. Diamond buccal fat removal thing here," she said in the video, pointing to the area right underneath her cheek bone. "And since I quit drinking, I've really seen the results. And I like it. Yeah, I did it, what?" Here's what to know about the surgery.

First, what even is buccal fat?

In the cheek hollow area of our face, we all have a natural pad of fat called the buccal fat pad, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

Everyone's buccal fat pad size is different. And even when you compare the buccal fat pads between your own two cheeks, the sizes might vary.

What is buccal fat removal?

"The goal of buccal fat removal is to thin the cheeks, specifically in the area of the cheek hollows," the ASPS reports. Another name for the procedure is a cheek reduction.

Buccal fat removal is typically performed in a hospital, a licensed ambulatory surgery setting, or an in-office procedure room. If you are having a buccal fat removal procedure, you will be under anesthesia. During that time, the plastic surgeon will make an incision on the inside of your mouth on the inner portion of your cheek. Once some of the fat is taken out, the doctor will close the incisions inside your mouth.

The healing process can take weeks. Your doctor might tell you to stay on a liquid diet for several days or longer. They may also give you a mouth rinse to reduce infection risk.

For several weeks, swelling will most likely obscure the final results of the procedure. But once the swelling subsides and your cheeks gradually take shape to their new appearance—which can take several months—you can expect to see more slimmed cheeks, according to the ASPS.

However, the ASPS does include this note: "The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary."

Why would someone want to get their buccal fat removed?

The ASPS does not list any health-related reasons as to why buccal fat removal would be deemed necessary. Instead, it is a cosmetic procedure for someone who might be interested in changing the look of their cheeks. "Although a face that is naturally soft and filled out is considered youthful, some people find that their face feels too full, even chubby," according to the ASPS.

The ASPS also points out that "buccal fat pad extraction surgery is typically not performed in people with thin, narrow faces as removal of the fat may cause the face to look more gaunt with age."

While the decision to get your buccal fat removed is your personal choice, the ASPS makes clear that "if you are considering this procedure, be sure to do it for yourself, not for someone else or to try to fit any sort of ideal image." The group recommends reviewing buccal fat removal surgery photos and learning about what to expect during recovery. "Preparation ahead of time helps patients have reasonable expectations and a smoother recovery."

What are the risks of buccal fat removal?

The ASPS provides a long list of possible risks of buccal fat removal surgery. They include:

  • Anesthesia risks
  • Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
  • Fluid accumulation (aka, seroma)
  • Hematoma (when there is bleeding outside of your blood vessels)
  • Infection
  • Injury to a salivary duct
  • Injury to branches of the facial nerve, resulting in temporary or permanent facial muscle weakness
  • Numbness or other changes in sensation
  • Persistent pain
  • Poor healing of incisions
  • Prolonged swelling

Another risk is bleeding. To reduce this risk, your doctor may tell you to avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements leading up to your surgery, as each can increase bleeding.

If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, or an unusual heartbeat after the procedure, the ASPS advises getting immediate medical attention.

It's also possible that you might experience asymmetry of the face or not get the exact results you were expecting. You might also need to have revisional surgeries. "You'll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications of buccal fat removal surgery are acceptable," the ASPS says. "…It's important that you address all your questions directly with your plastic surgeon."

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