What Are Cheek Implants?


Loss of facial volume is a common side effect of ageing. Cheek implants, also known as cheek augmentation, is a cosmetic surgery procedure that adds volume to areas of the face that lack definition, giving the face a more balanced look.  As we age, loss of muscle tone and less fat lying beneath the surface of the skin can flatten the once rounded profile of the cheeks. Cheek implants are ideal for people with a narrow or flat face, or those who have lost cheek contour due to congenital deficiency, facial trauma or the ageing process. Cheek implants come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be custom shaped to augment weak facial structure and combat the effects of aging to remove a ‘gaunt’ appearance.

If you have lost volume in your cheeks as a result of the ageing process or were born with flat or non-pronounced cheeks, then you could be a candidate for cheek implant surgery. If you are unable to have surgery for any reason, such as a medical condition, dermal fillers are a good alternative to enhance your cheeks.

Although cheek implant complications are very rare, there are still risks involved like any other surgical procedure. Firstly, the use of a general anesthetic carries a small additional risk, which your surgeon will discuss with you. No form of anesthetic will be given to you without your surgeon discussing it with you first.

Some post-surgical complications may include infection, which is usually treatable with antibiotics. Misplacement of a cheek implant can result in the implants shifting and therefore causing asymmetry in the face. A second procedure may then be necessary to correct this. It’s important that you choose a qualified surgeon who is skilled in this area.

Before making a decision to undergo surgery you will need to have a consultation with a surgeon. During your consultation you should explain to your surgeon what you expect from the treatment and how you would like to look afterwards. The surgeon should tell you what the surgery involves and discuss any potential risks and complications. You will also need to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of surgery and implant material used. If you choose a synthetic implant, you would normally require a skin test before surgery to ensure that you are not allergic to the material. A medical history will usually be taken at this stage to make sure that there are no reasons why you shouldn’t have a facial implant. Photographs may also be taken by the practitioner for use as a before and after comparison at a later date.

Cheek implant surgery is usually performed in an outpatient surgical center, either run separately by your surgeon, or in a hospital. The operation will take between 30 minutes to two hours depending on the extent of the procedure and the implant material used.

The surgeon will make an incision and create a pocket in which to position the implant. Incisions are usually made inside the mouth or through an opening just beneath the lower eyelash so the incision blends with the lash line and is hardly detectable. Cuts under the skin are closed with dissolving stitches, and incisions on the outside of the skin are usually stitched with removable stitches.

Where the implants are positioned will depend on the type of implants you have. Malar implants are inserted in the outer upper cheek area giving the high cheekbone look. Submalar implants are inserted in the lower or mid-cheek region to help fill out a sunken face. The face seems to become thinner as we age and many people seek this kind of implant to return their face to a more youthful look. A surgeon may suggest a fat transfer as an alternative as this often gives a rounder, more natural look to your face by using your own fat from somewhere else in your body. In some cases, having a combination of the two implants can plump out both the cheekbones and main cheek areas to give a more enhanced and youthful look.

Your surgeon may recommend a local anesthetic along with a mild sedative to make you feel drowsy, or alternatively a general anesthetic. However, this will depend upon the area treated and implant material used.

If you are considering having cheek implants, it’s important to note that they can placed in conjunction with other facial plastic surgery procedures such as a face-lift, brow-lift, rhinoplasty, or eyelid surgery, in which the implants are inserted through the incisions made for those procedures.

Cheek implants were first used for reconstruction of the face after birth defects and damage caused by accidents or trauma. Solid silicone implants were originally used in the late 1950’s for re-building the face in these events. Cheek implants have a proven safety record and are effective for cosmetic enhancement. The implants are made from a variety of synthetic materials that range from fairly rigid to flexible.

Cheek implants come in various shapes and sizes, and most can be custom shaped to a particular facial structure. Cheek implants that are made of hydroxyapatite, integrate with natural bone tissue in the face and therefore become part of the cheek structure. In contrast, cheek implants that are made from silicone can be removed at a later date, as they do not integrate with the facial tissue.