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The Definitive Guide to Fillers vs Cheek Implants

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Improve facial symmetry, add volume, and enhance contours with minimally invasive or permanent options

More and more people are seeking aesthetic treatments to refresh their look and restore a youthful vitality to their face. Two of the most popular options for facial rejuvenation and enhancement are dermal fillers and cheek implants. 

But what exactly is the difference between the two? How do the results, longevity and recovery time compare? We break it all down in this comprehensive guide comparing fillers and implants for the cheeks.

Read on to determine which procedure may be right for you and your specific cosmetic goals for a more symmetrical, sculpted and defined facial profile.

What Are Dermal Fillers?

A Woman Getting Cheek Filler Treatment

Dermal fillers are injectable gel substances used to temporarily add volume and smooth wrinkles in the face. The main types are:

  • Hyaluronic acid fillers like Juvederm, Restylane, and Belotero are the most commonly used. They contain a natural sugar that attracts water to fill in facial folds and creases. 
  • Calcium hydroxylapatite fillers like Radiesse contain microscopic calcium particles that integrate into the deeper skin layers.
  • Poly-L-lactic acid fillers like Sculptra stimulate collagen formation over time as the material is gradually absorbed. 
  • Polymethylmethacrylate fillers like Artefill contain PMMA microspheres in a gel and provide the longest-lasting results. However, they may also cause more swelling or lumps.

Elevate your beauty with expertly administered dermal fillers by Dr. Lanna for a rejuvenated and youthful glow

What Are Cheek Implants?

Cheek implants are surgical implants used to permanently augment and enhance the cheekbones and midface region. They are solid silicone or porous polyethylene implants surgically inserted through small incisions in the mouth or face.

The main types of cheek implants are:

  • Malar implants are placed over the cheekbones to add projection and contour. 
  • Submalar implants are placed below the cheekbone to augment the lower cheek area. 
  • Combination implants augment both the upper and lower cheek regions at the same time.

Cheek implant surgery is performed under anesthesia. The customized implants are positioned to provide structural support and restore facial proportion and symmetry. 

What is the Difference Between Fillers and Cheek Implants?

The most significant difference between dermal fillers and cheek implants is the longevity of results.

Facial fillers are gradually absorbed by the body over time, meaning their volumizing and contouring effects are temporary. Different types of fillers have different durations, but patients can expect results to last:

  • Hyaluronic acid fillers (Juvederm, Restyane): 6-18 months
  • Calcium hydroxylapatite (Radiesse): 12-18 months
  • Poly-L-lactic acid (Sculptra): 2 years

After this time period, filler injections need to be repeated to maintain the cosmetic enhancement they provide. Some patients choose to make filler injections part of their regular anti-aging maintenance regimen, coming in for repeat treatments every 6 to 12 months. Others may just get fillers occasionally for a special event or as needed to refresh their look.

Cheek implants are designed to permanently augment the facial contours. The implants themselves do not break down or get absorbed by the body, so the enhancement and improved facial definition lasts many years or even a lifetime after the initial surgery.

With cheek implants, there is no need to come back for ongoing maintenance treatments like there is with injectable fillers. The implants are intended to be a permanent augmentation. 

Can Fillers Achieve the Same Results as Cheek Implants?

While both fillers and implants aim to enhance the cheeks and add structure to the midface, the results achievable with each modality differ significantly.

Dermal fillers like Voluma or Juvederm Vollure used for subtle cheek enhancement are targeted in the degree of augmentation they can provide. Fillers simply add volume by filling in lost collagen and fat cells in the cheeks and midface that occur with aging. They can help restore a plumper, rounded contour to cheeks that have become hollow or saggy.

The volumizing effects of fillers are fairly subtle to moderate in scope. The injected gel lifts and fills out the overlying soft tissues without altering the actual underlying bone structure.

Cheek implants alter the bony structure of the midface by augmenting the zygomatic and maxillary bones that form the cheek prominence. Implants reinforce the bone structure for sharper definition and projection to the cheeks.

The surgical augmentation from implants can make a more significant change to the facial profile with dramatic results. Implants are better suited for patients desiring a high degree of midface enhancement and definition. 

Embrace the unparalleled impact of cheek implants with Dr. Lanna's precision, sculpting your desired facial structure with unmatched elegance

How Do Recovery Times Compare Between Fillers and Cheek Implants?

A Woman Getting Cheek Filler Treatment

Another major distinction between fillers and implants is the required recovery time.

Injectable fillers require little to no recovery time. The treatment itself takes 15-30 minutes during a quick office visit. Patients can resume their normal activities immediately and apply makeup, exercise and go about their regular routines right away. After the procedure, expect:

  • Some minor swelling, redness or tenderness may occur at the injection sites but this typically resolves within a day or two
  • Occasionally small bruises may result but remain minimal.

Cheek implant surgery is performed under general anesthesia or local anesthesia with sedation for patient comfort and safety. After the implants are positioned through an incision in the mouth or face, sutures are used to close the incisions. After surgery, expect that:

  • You will experience some swelling, bruising and tenderness around the cheeks that peaks 2-3 days after surgery.
  • It will take about 5-7 days off work and limit strenuous activities during the first week after surgery.
  • Discomfort is usually managed effectively with prescription pain medication. Some numbness or tightness may be felt until the nerves in the skin fully heal. 
  • Within 2 weeks, most swelling and bruising will subside allowing patients to return to normal activities.

Are Fillers Safer Than Cheek Implants?

When evaluating options for aesthetic enhancement, safety is always a top concern. Here's how the risks and safety profile compare between dermal fillers vs. cheek implants:

Safety FactorFacial FillersCheek Implants
Overall safetyExtremely safe, few side effectsVery safe but surgical risks present
Main risksSwelling, bruising, infection at injection sitesBleeding, infection, poor healing, nerve damage
FDA approvalApproved for cheeks and faceApproved for cheek augmentation
ReversibilityEffects gradually reverse as fillers dissipatePermanent procedure, non-reversible
AnesthesiaNo general anesthesia risksRisks from general anesthesia
Surgical risksNo surgical risksRisks of any surgical procedure
Long-term issuesEffects dissipate over timeAny side effects would be permanent
Revision proceduresNone neededMay need revision surgery

What Are the Risks of Fillers vs Cheek Implants?

As we've explored, dermal fillers and cheek implants both have excellent safety records and low risk of complications in the hands of an expert injector or surgeon. However, the types of risks differ between the two modalities.

Potential side effects or risks with facial fillers include:

  • Injection site reactions: swelling, bruising, redness, pain - usually resolves in a few days
  • Lumps or bumps under skin from improper filler placement - can often be massaged out
  • Skin discoloration or bluish tinge from filler material very close to surface of skin
  • Infection at injection site - rare with proper sanitization and technique
  • Vascular occlusion from filler compressing blood vessel - very rare but serious if occurs
  • Allergic reaction - uncommon as most fillers use substances naturally found in body

With cheek implant surgery, possible surgical risks include:

  • Excessive bleeding or hematoma at implant site
  • Infection of incision/implant requiring antibiotics or implant removal
  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Numbness or nerve damage from surgical trauma
  • Malposition or later displacement of the implant requiring revision surgery
  • Extrusion or visible appearance of the implant edge
  • Capsular contracture causing tightening around the implant

Both options are considered very safe in skilled hands. A board-certified plastic surgeon can further discuss the risks and safety record of any procedure you are considering.

Partner with Dr. Lanna for safe and effective cosmetic procedures, prioritizing your well-being and satisfaction every step of the way

How is A Great Candidate for Cheek Augmentation Determined?

The best candidates for nonsurgical cheek enhancement with dermal fillers are patients who:

  • Want to gradually add mild to moderate volume and fullness to hollow or aging cheeks
  • Seek subtle cosmetic improvement without surgery
  • Wish to temporarily plump cheeks and smooth lines with ongoing filler maintenance
  • Have mild cheek asymmetry and want to conservatively enhance balance
  • Are bothered by midface volume loss that makes them look tired or sad
  • Want an immediate result without a long recovery period
  • Are unwilling or unable to have surgery due to health conditions or cost

Ideal candidates for surgical cheek augmentation with implants are patients who:

  • Desire significant, permanent augmentation and projection of the cheekbones
  • Are bothered by flat or sunken cheeks and want dramatic improvement
  • Wish to permanently restore a heart-shaped face and youthful structure
  • Need precise sculpting and volumizing to improve facial symmetry
  • Want to augment actual facial bone structure, not just overlying tissues
  • Are healthy, non-smokers with good skin elasticity
  • Have decided on a permanent change in their facial contours
  • Do not wish to undergo regular filler maintenance treatments

Considering Cheek Enhancement? Consult Dr. Lanna's Expertise

A Woman Getting Cheek Filler Treatment at Dr. Lanna Aesthetics

If you're contemplating options for cheek rejuvenation, be sure to consult board certified urologic surgeon Dr. Lanna Cheuck. With over 15 years of specialized experience performing cheek filler injections, Dr. Lanna is the expert for natural-looking cheek enhancement.

To schedule your one-on-one consultation with Dr. Lanna and learn which cheek enhancement options may be best for you, book an appointment online or call (929) 565-7539 today. Discover the transformative power of expert facial rejuvenation.

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