“If a wire is incorrectly positioned on or too close to gum tissue, there can be a domino effect of issues, starting with gum inflammation.  Prolonged gum inflammation can lead to bone loss, which then leads to tooth mobility,” he says. Dr. Huang, though, adds that intervention can make all the difference if your dental situation is going south. “Prevention is really important to us because we want to catch [the issue] before it happens. There are so many opportunities to do something before something becomes a cavity, or before something becomes gum disease.”

How do I clean a bonded retainer? 

Dr. Apa confirms that your retainer should allow for consistent cleaning, even if it requires a little extra effort. “The most obvious thing to consider with permanent lingual wires is oral hygiene.  Some wires, depending on how they’re made, are not easily cleanable,” he explains. “You have to treat them almost like a dental bridge, where you’re using a floss-threader to run floss underneath the wire and get into the gum area.  I always recommend a water pick to patients with bonded wires because it’s easy [to use], and that means they’re more likely to make it part of their daily routine, which is critical for avoiding cavities and decay.”

Dr. Nagel says it’s also recommended to switch to an electric toothbrush, which has been shown to remove more plaque than manual toothbrushes and rinse with a mouthwash containing flouride to strengthen the enamel and decrease the bacteria in the mouth.

The cost of permanent retainer replacements

Dr. Huang says that lingual retainers for upper teeth or lower teeth, “usually run about $850 an arch,” and that there’s typically a fee to remove the retainer. Pricy, absolutely, but it may end up saving you the extra money that intervention would require later. 

“Let’s say it’s a $1,000 retainer, but that can save you from a very complicated orthodontic treatment 20 years down the road,” adds Dr. Grauer. 

My final result

When I returned to Les Belles, I was genuinely terrified of what Dr. Huang might uncover once the glue had been chiseled off. With Oliver dozing off on my lap once again, she got started. For context, it normally takes about ten minutes to remove a bonded retainer. I ended up spending almost 45 minutes in the chair because there was so much glue for Dr. Huang to file and pick away from my teeth and gums. Afterward, I checked out the tiny monster that had been wreaking havoc on my bottom teeth. It was totally unassuming, and I was relieved to see it tossed in the trash. 

Top: What remained after chiseling away the retainer glue. Bottom: Once the retainer was fully removed. 

Insert middle finger emoji here

For the first time in almost a decade, I could feel the backs of my bottom teeth: slippery, devoid of a massive hunk of glue, and most of all, clean! After that, to get fitted for my new retainer, I was expecting to withstand the same gross process of taking molds the old-fashioned way I’d spent hours of my life dreading as a kid — my mouth stuffed with two trays full of bland goop. Thankfully, that’s not how this goes down at Les Belles in 2022: Dr. Huang’s assistant took a 360-degree scan of my teeth with a tiny camera at the end of what looked like an electric tooth brush while Oliver snoozed in my lap. I watched the scan hit 100 percent visibility on the screen as it captured every cranny of every tooth, and I was sent on my way. 

My fancy, custom bonded retainer.

Two weeks later, my personalized retainer arrived at the office and I returned for its installation. In under 15 minutes, Dr. Huang had replaced my junked-up twisted wire with the Mazzeratti of retainers. Shaped into an S-wave, the proprietary new model allows for effortless flossing and brushing, and most importantly, I couldn’t feel any glue whatsoever. As I was aggressively thanking Dr. Huang, I realized that all that now-defunct glue had probably been affecting my speech for over a decade. It was a huge step towards better health — and until now, I had no idea it was a step I even needed to take. 



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