Facial Implants – Are They Right for You?

Reviewed by Michael Olding, MD, FACS

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Facial implant plastic surgery can help you balance disproportionate facial features, strengthen a weak jaw line, or accentuate your cheekbones to create a more youthful appearance. Facial implants are FDA-approved plates inserted in front of the bone of the cheek, chin, jaw, or other areas of the face.

Best Candidates for Facial Implants

The best facial implant candidates are patients whose skin has loosened around the face, with the surrounding skin retaining enough elasticity to be repositioned successfully. A weakened jaw line, or the appearance of reduced bone structure, can be improved with facial implants. Implants may also work in other areas of the face. A consultation with a qualified plastic surgeon is the best way to decide if you are a good candidate for facial implants.

The Procedure

Facial implants are most often performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon. Surgery may be performed in an office surgical suite, outpatient surgery center, or hospital. Time in surgery is about 30 minutes to one hour. The procedure may be performed under local anesthesia (awake, but sedated) or general anesthesia (asleep). You can discuss the appropriate type of anesthesia with your doctor and the anesthesiologist.

Typically, you can return home the same day, though sometimes an overnight stay at the hospital is needed.

The facial implant procedure varies depending on the type of implant. The most common facial implants are chin, cheek, or jaw implants. You may need more than one type of implant to achieve the results you're looking for.

Cheek Implant

During cheek implant surgery, an incision will be made under the lower eyelid or inside the mouth on either side of the upper lip. The surgeon will create a pocket for the implant to fit into, and then insert the implant through the incision. A bandage may be applied to reduce swelling and discomfort.

Cheek Implant Recovery

Following cheek implant surgery you may have some swelling and mild soreness in the cheek area. Your cheeks may also feel tight due to the increased volume. Pain medications can help control your pain if necessary. Make sure to ask your surgeon for specific advice on how and when to resume your usual activities, including eating solid food. In general, return to work and other normal activity can occur within a week.

Chin Implant

During chin implant surgery, your surgeon will make a small incision under your chin or inside your lower lip. The chin implant is then inserted and secured into place either by slipping the implant into a pocket or attaching it to bone or soft tissue. The procedure takes roughly 30 to 45 minutes if it is performed on its own, and results are apparent almost immediately.

Chin Implant Recovery

You may have mild soreness, tightness or swelling in your lower face following chin implant surgery. Make sure to ask your surgeon for specific advice on how and when to resume your usual activities — including eating solid food — after chin augmentation. Also discuss what complications can occur following the procedure.

Jaw Implant

During a jaw implant, an incision will be made on either side of the lower lip. The surgeon will form a pocket for the implant to fit into, then insert the implant into the lower jaw through the incision. Tape across the chin will be applied to reduce swelling and discomfort.

Jaw Implant Recovery

Moving your mouth may be difficult for about seven days. Movement will improve during the next few months. Your jaw may be black and blue. The doctor will instruct you to limit activity, set a dietary regimen, and give you dental hygiene guidelines. Stitches will dissolve in about seven days. After surgery, the jaw will continue to swell for up to 48 hours. There may be a low level of swelling for several months after the procedure.

Complications and Risks

As with any surgery, there is a risk of complications related to infection or reaction to anesthesia. In extreme cases, infection will require removal and reinsertion of the implant. You can avoid most complications by selecting a qualified, experienced plastic surgeon and by following pre- and postoperative instructions. With proper precautions by the surgical team, complications are typically minimized or prevented.

Swelling and bruising often occur after the procedure and will subside within several days. Scarring may also occur, which can be treated with other procedures. Bleeding can produce excessive bruising or at worst, a blood clot, which requires physician intervention and results in a longer recovery time. Nerve damage is a rare complication, but it can occur. When it does occur, nerve damage can be temporary, resolving itself after about six months. The results of facial implant plastic surgery may not be fully evident for several months.

Alternative and Additional Treatments

Facial implant surgery is one of the many cosmetic-surgery remedies to improve faces affected by aging or genetic issues. Temporary, less invasive alternatives include Botox, fat fillers, collagen, stem cell face lifts and Restylane.

You may want to incorporate facial implants with other plastic surgery procedures. For example, facial implant surgery can enhance the results of a facelift. It may also be performed at the same time as a forehead lift or eyelid surgery. Successful strategies often include a combination treatment plan developed with a surgeon and other healthcare professionals, customized for each individual.

Consult a Qualified Surgeon

Facial implants do not stop the aging process. Wrinkles, hollowness in the face, and other imperfections can reappear over time. Before deciding on facial implants, discuss all the options with your surgeon.

It's important to choose a board-certified plastic surgeon from the American Board of Plastic Surgery with extensive experience in all of the face-implant and facial-surgery procedures. Board certification may not always guarantee the best results; however, board certification does require specific and rigorous surgical education and training that improves the odds for a successful outcome.

The type of certification is also important. There are more than 150 self-designated boards, but only a handful that are designated by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), such as the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Here are some tips to consider when consulting a plastic surgeon:

  • Review credentials, education, training, type of certification held, and number of times the procedure has been performed in the practice.
  • View before-and-after photos of patients who received different types of surgical procedures with facial implants.
  • Bring a photo that shows the appearance you are looking for. This will help the surgeon understand your expectations and develop a treatment plan.
  • Ask about the type of equipment and implant to be used, where the procedure will be performed, and the extent of the procedure.
  • Discuss the impact of smoking, dental problems, and gum disease on your surgery.
  • Ask about complications and possible side effects of the procedure.
  • The recovery period and your activities after surgery should be explained to you as well.

During your consultation, the doctor will complete a medical evaluation. The doctor will also provide a list of instructions to follow before the procedure. Instructions might include no eating or drinking after midnight, an antibiotic for both before and after the procedure, stopping the use of certain medications, and having someone drive you home after the procedure. Also during your consultation with a plastic surgeon you can ask about other implant enhancement procedures for the body, such as calf implants, buttock implants and breast augmentation with implants.

Facial Implants Cost

Cost for the facial implant procedure comprises anesthesia fees, facility fees, and surgeon's fees. Since facial implants are often performed during a facelift, forehead lift, or other procedure, anesthesia and facility fees can be combined. The total fees for implants can range from a minimum of $2,000 for a single implant, up to $5,000 (or more) for two or more implants.

For information on the cost of other facial plastic surgery procedures, please visit our pages on face lift cost, rhinoplasty cost and cheek reduction cost.

Payments

Some of the cost may be covered by insurance if the procedure is a medical necessity. Ask your plastic surgeon about filing for insurance. Purely cosmetic procedures are not covered by insurance.

If the cost is too much to pay at once, ask your surgeon about monthly payments. For financing options and tips, continue reading about Patient Financing.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Michael Olding, MD, FACS, of Washington, D.C. is board-certified in plastic and reconstructive surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Northeastern Society of Plastic Surgery and the National Capital Society of Plastic Surgeons, where he was elected president. Dr. Olding specializes in cosmetic plastic surgery procedures and clinically related activities in cosmetic surgery, cosmetic facial surgery, breast augmentation and reduction, rhinoplasty, body contouring, liposuction and melanoma. He is also one of the area experts on soft-tissue fillers (Restylane, Sculptra and Botox). He received his doctorate in medicine from the University of Kentucky in 1980 and completed his internship at Cornell Medical Center. He completed his fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery at McGill University in Montreal. Dr. Olding maintains hospital staff privileges at George Washington University Medical Center, Sibley Hospital and Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C. More about Dr. Michael Olding