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An excerpt from

Retainer Girl

A Dr. Samantha Wrighting novel


Catherine Aimes


       Just then one of Dr.Wrighting’s assistants came in, and put two pink plastic objects on the tray that hovered over my chest.
       My retainers.

       “There they are,” Natalie stated the obvious.
       They looked like I expected. Like most other retainers I'd seen. My sister's and my friends'. The lower one was maybe the width and shape of my pinky when I curled it, the top one a lot bulkier but not gargantuan like the devices some of Dr.Wrighting's patients have, where you can't understand almost anything they say when they are wearing it. The retainers were both a light, translucent pink. A lot of my friends' retainers, and Jennifer's first one, have some sort of design or writing on them, but Dr.Wrighting doesn't believe in that sort of thing. That part of a retainer isn't for show. It belongs in the mouth and that's all, she told Jennifer when my sister had asked about choosing colors and designs for her replacement retainers. I didn't even bring the subject up.
       Natalie took her retainer out. It was clear, and glistened slightly with her saliva. She picked up my upper retainer and held it up to hers to compare the two. They were about the same size. "Not too bad," she said. "Together with the bottom one it'll be a bit of a pain, but you should be able to talk more or less comprehensibly. With a bit of practice."
       The way she smiled I didn't know whether or not she was serious. I wasn't sure what to expect. I had tried to get a feel for what the retainer might be like with a wad of gum a couple of days ago, now that I could chew gum again, but the lump of soft, sugary gooeyness that didn't really stick to the roof of my mouth probably wasn't that much like what the hard piece of plastic would be. Truthfully, I hadn't experimented too hard. I don't think I really wanted to know.
       I could feel my heart pounding again, especially against the straps across my chest. Each time I heard footsteps I thought: this is it. I knew that once Dr.Wrighting came back those two retainers would really be my retainers. From that moment on, for I don't know how many years, maybe even forever, they would my obligation and responsibility and, on and off, part of me. Even though I would be able to take them out, and even though after a few months I probably would only have to wear them at night, I still wouldn't be able to put them away and forget about them. I would have to put them in, every night or every couple of nights. I would only ever be temporarily free of them. Like a boomerang, they'd always come back to me. The braces were probably worse, but the braces were a limited time problem. They came off and good riddance and I didn't have to worry about ever having them again. Unless maybe I didn't wear my retainers . . . .
       I felt bad at not having taken advantage of the in between limbo of the past few days, the only time I was well and truly braceless, without any orthodontic device to worry about. I don't know what else I could have done to get the most out of those days, but I did feel this weird pang of regret.
       Then Dr.Wrighting came in, and it was time to take that next big step. Or mouthful.
       "There we are," she said, looking at the retainers as she sat down on her stool. She picked up the larger one, the top one, and smiled at me. "Open up." Obediently I did, and she put the retainer in my mouth, pushing it lightly against my palate. It didn't really slide or snap into place, but I could feel the wire going over my teeth and a bit of tension in them, and I could feel a bit of the plastic on the inside of my mouth. It sort of clicked into place, and Dr.Wrighting withdrew her hands and there I was, with my retainer.
       I was paying attention to Dr.Wrighting, so I didn't really get a sense of the foreign object in my mouth immediately. She didn't let me close my mouth right away, looking in, pushing against the plastic first on one side, then another. Then she had me bite down, and that was when I first got a feel for how much plastic there was in my mouth. She snapped the retainer out again and looked at it and into my mouth, and asked me whether I felt any sharp pain or anything. I didn't. It fit like a glove.
       She left the top retainer out and did the same thing with the bottom retainer. This one did snap into place, on the two clasps cemented to my teeth. It didn't hurt either, but she wasn't as satisfied, taking a pair of small pliers and bending one of the wires. She also took out the drill and put a different head on it and sanded down one part of it, though not much dust flew off so it couldn't have been much.
       She tried it out in my mouth and had me bite down a couple of times before she was satisfied. I couldn't get much of a sense of what this one was like either, but even though it was smaller than the top one it seemed to get in the way of my tongue more. But when she was finally satisfied and left it in and asked me how it felt I was happy to hear that it didn't affect my speech at all.
       Then she put the top one back in and she had me bite down again a few times and that was it. I was done, and everything was different.
       Having both retainers in my mouth took up a lot of space. It was like the one made the other one bigger when they were both in there together. Suddenly swallowing was harder. And when I started to mention that I noticed that talking was harder too. My words came out pretty slurred.
       "They will take some getting used to," Dr.Wrighting said. "It's an adjustment, but in a few days you should manage fine."
       A few days ? I almost felt like the times when I had those impression trays in my mouth, but I could deal with those because I knew that it really was only for a few minutes. The retainers were much smaller than the impression trays, but boy did they still feel big. And each slurred attempt to say anything and each time I tried to swallow was a potent reminder of how much room they took up.

(from pages 17-20)

A reminder:

Dr. Samantha Wrighting is a fictional character, not a real orthodontist. Retainer Girl is a work of fiction, and for entertainment purposes some of the procedures, devices, experiences, methods and duration of treatment described in this book do not represent what patients are likely to encounter in actually undergoing orthodontic treatment

Readers should not rely on any information or descriptions in this novel. For accurate information about orthodontic treatment readers are encouraged to consult a dentist or orthodontist, or to contact a professional organization such as the American Association of Orthodontists (


All rights reserved — Copyright © Catherine Aimes 2006, 2011