In Hollywood, dimples are a sought-after physical attribute (even if they are technically caused by a genetic defect).
However, cheek dimples are a purely genetic trait; if your parents had them, there’s a good chance that you’ll have them. But if you weren’t born with them, you’re probably out of luck.
Unless, of course, you’re willing to go under the knife. A surgical procedure called dimpleplasty has gained new ground with millennials in recent years—though doctors warn about the potential risks.
What are dimples, exactly?
Dimples are a genetic trait created when the skin of the cheek is directly attached to the cheek muscle through a small, naturally occurring hole. Smiling causes the cheek muscles to contract, pulling the skin tight and allowing the dimples to appear. Many people find dimples to be desirable, despite the fact that they’re functionally useless.
Dimpleplasty has been available for over 30 years, but the popularity of the practice has surged recently. Doctors believe people are drawn to this procedure because it is minimally invasive and relatively inexpensive. That’s not to say that it’s completely free from risk, however.
Dimpleplasty is attractive to millennials for several reasons.
A dimpleplasty is an outpatient procedure performed when the patient is under local anesthesia and only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. The surgeon makes the incisions on the inside of the cheek, so there is no visible scarring. The average total cost is between $1,200 and $2,500, which is relatively affordable when it comes to plastic surgery.
Doctors work with the patient to precisely measure where to place the dimple. After placement is determined, an incision is made into the cheek muscle (buccinator), at which point the cheek skin is attached. Some swelling typically occurs, and most people have semi-permanent dimples for about two months. Gradually the inflammation goes down and the dimples are only visible when the patient smiles.
However, the risks of dimpleplasty are substantial.
Some doctors warn that although dimpleplasty can be attractive from a cosmetic standpoint, the risks outweigh the benefits.
Mouth incisions are, by nature, extremely susceptible to bacteria. Surgeons typically prescribe a small dose of antibiotics to speed up the healing process and to avoid infection. Patients are also required to use an antiseptic mouthwash multiple times a day to kill any germs, but even with these precautions, infections are a possibility.
Dimpleplasty typically isn’t reversible. Doctors can sometimes remove the attached skin to minimize the dimples, but this isn’t always an option. The artificial dimples can also gradually disappear over time, as the aging process naturally causes the skin to stretch and move.
Some patients also note that their new dimples move or sag after several years. Working with a qualified, experienced surgeon can limit some of these risks. Still, no cosmetic surgery is perfect.
“As the skin ages and loses elasticity, there is no telling how the scars will look as the face begins to droop—designer dimples could become designer disasters within a matter of years,” said a spokesperson for SurgiCare to Fox News.