How to Sleep with Retainers: – Tips for Wearing Your Retainer at Night

smiling woman in white knit to sleep with retainers

How to Sleep with Retainers

Wearing retainers is a necessary part of the orthodontic process, but it can be tricky to get used to wearing them, especially at night. If you’re finding it difficult to sleep with your retainer, here are some tips that may help you adjust:

Can you sleep with retainers?

It is generally safe to sleep with retainers, but there are potential risks involved. Retainers may fall out of position while you sleep, or you may remove them unknowingly. Discomfort is also common, especially when getting used to the retainer. To avoid these issues, consider sleeping on your side to open nasal passages and prop yourself up on an extra pillow. Avoid sleeping on your back when new to wearing a retainer.

It’s crucial to wear your retainer consistently for around eight hours to be effective, and it’s much easier to achieve this by wearing the mouthpiece overnight. If you experience discomfort, give your mouth time to adjust, and if it persists, consult your orthodontist.

How to sleep with retainers – tips and tricks!

To sleep comfortably with a retainer, there are several tips and tricks that you can follow.

It is important to gradually increase wear time to get your mouth used to the retainer. A retainer case can also be useful for keeping your retainer clean and safe while you get some Zzz’s.

Practicing good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing before bed, can also help prevent bacterial buildup on your retainer.

In summary, to sleep effectively with a retainer, gradually increase wear time, use a retainer case, practice good oral hygiene, choose the right type of retainer, and address any discomfort or soreness promptly. Consistency is key, so make sure to wear your retainer every night to maintain a healthy smile.

What to consider when choosing a retainer for sleeping

Retainers are an essential part of orthodontic treatment. They are designed to maintain the alignment of teeth after braces or other orthodontic treatments. However, wearing a retainer can be uncomfortable, especially when sleeping.

1. Retainers for sleeping: Comfort

The comfort of a retainer depends on the material used in its construction. Retainers can be made from acrylic, wire, or a combination of both.

  • Acrylic retainers are more comfortable to wear, but they tend to wear out faster than wire retainers.
  • Wire retainers are more durable, but they can be uncomfortable to wear, especially if they are not adjusted properly.

Choosing a well-fitted retainer is crucial for comfort during sleep. A poorly fitted retainer can cause discomfort, pain, and even affect sleep quality.

how to sleep with retainers. smiling girl in white sweater holding red and white toothbrush

2. Retainers for sleeping: Set-up

To set up your retainer for sleeping, start by keeping it in a location where you’ll see it before bed, like on a bedside table. If you’re new to wearing a retainer, avoid sleeping on your back and try sleeping on your side instead. This opens up your nasal passages and makes breathing easier.

When you’re ready to insert your retainer, make sure to clean it thoroughly and ensure it fits comfortably. If it feels uncomfortable, try adjusting it slightly or contact your orthodontist for assistance.

3. Retainers for sleeping: Care and cleaning

To properly care and clean your retainers for sleeping, follow these steps:

  1. Brush and clean your retainer every day with a commercial cleaning solution or a baking soda solution.
  2. Soak your retainer when it’s not in your mouth to prevent cracking. Do not put it in hot water or near a heat source.
  3. Do not bend the wires on your retainer.
  4. Keep your retainer in the same spot at home when you’re not wearing it to avoid losing or damaging it.

By following these steps, you can maintain the appearance and effectiveness of your retainer, which is crucial for avoiding wearing orthodontic appliances again in the future.

4. Retainers for sleeping: Variety of styles

There are three main styles of retainers suitable for sleeping: clear retainers, traditional retainers, and fixed retainers.

  • Clear retainers are made of a clear plastic material and are virtually invisible. They are comfortable to wear and can be easily removed for cleaning. However, they may not be as effective as other types of retainers and may need to be replaced more frequently.
  • Traditional retainers are made of acrylic and metal wires. They are durable and effective in maintaining tooth alignment but can be uncomfortable to wear and may require adjustment.
  • Fixed retainers are bonded to the back of the teeth and are not removable. They are highly effective in maintaining tooth alignment but can be difficult to clean and may cause discomfort.
  • Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are not typically recommended to be worn during sleep as they are designed to be removable and are intended for daytime use. They are usually worn for a specific duration during the day and removed for eating and oral hygiene.
  • Spring retainers, also known as wraparound retainers or spring aligners, are not usually suggested for sleeping. They consist of a thin wire that wraps around the front teeth to provide minor tooth movement or alignment. They are typically intended for short-term use and may not be suitable for overnight wear.

While the terms “clear retainer” and “clear aligner” are sometimes used interchangeably, they refer to different dental appliances:

  1. Clear Retainer: A clear retainer is a removable device made of transparent plastic that is custom-fit to your teeth. It is primarily used to maintain the position of teeth after orthodontic treatment, similar to Hawley or Essix retainers. Clear retainers are typically worn at night while sleeping to prevent teeth from shifting.
  2. Clear Aligner: A clear aligner, such as Invisalign, is a series of clear, removable trays that are custom-made to gradually move teeth into their desired position. Clear aligners are designed to actively straighten teeth and are typically worn for 20-22 hours a day, including during sleep, with the trays being changed every few weeks as the teeth shift.

While both clear retainers and clear aligners are made of transparent material, the main difference lies in their purpose and treatment approach. Clear retainers are primarily for maintaining tooth alignment, while clear aligners actively move teeth to achieve orthodontic correction.

5. Retainers for sleeping: Breathability

Breathability is an essential factor to consider when choosing a retainer for sleeping better. Here are some tips on how to choose a retainer with good breathability and the benefits of doing so:

  1. Look for a retainer that is made of materials that allow air to pass through, such as clear plastic or wire.
  2. Avoid retainers made of solid materials that cover the roof of your mouth, as they can restrict airflow and cause discomfort.
  3. Consider getting a retainer with ventilation holes or a design that allows for better airflow.
  4. A retainer with good breathability can help prevent dry mouth and reduce the risk of bacterial growth in your mouth. It can also help you breathe more easily while sleeping, reducing the risk of snoring or sleep apnea.
  5. Additionally, a comfortable retainer with good breathability can help you sleep better and wake up feeling more rested.

6. Retainers for sleeping: Security

When choosing a retainer for sleeping, it’s important to prioritize security to ensure it stays in place throughout the night. Look for a retainer that is a perfect fit for your teeth, with no looseness or slippage. Clear, traditional, and fixed retainers are all good options.

Well-known retainer brands

Listing of some well-known good quality retainer brands:

EssixOffers clear, transparent retainers known for their custom-fit and excellent retention.
HawleyKnown for durable and adjustable retainers that have been trusted for many years.
ViveraPrimarily associated with clear aligners but also offers custom-made retainers using 3D printing technology for a precise fit.
Dentsply SironaA reputable dental company that produces a range of orthodontic products, including both Hawley and clear retainer options.
good quality retainer brands

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and there are other quality retainer brands available as well.

How many hours to wear retainer at night

It’s recommended to wear a retainer for around eight hours a day to be effective, and it’s more convenient to achieve this by wearing it overnight when we’re asleep. For the first 3-6 months, you’ll need to wear your retainer 22 hours out of the day, just taking it out to eat and brush your teeth. After that, you can wear it only while sleeping.

For the rest of your life, your teeth will always be slowly heading back to their original positions, so wearing your retainer consistently is essential to prevent this. Always follow the schedule provided by your dental professional to ensure the best results.

Month #Recommended Hours of Wear at Night
Month 18-12 hours
Month 28-12 hours
Month 38-12 hours
Month 48 hours
Month 58 hours
Month 68 hours
Month 76-8 hours
Month 86-8 hours
Month 96-8 hours
Month 106 hours
Month 116 hours
Month 126 hours
recommended number of hours to wear a retainer at night for the first year

Please note that these recommendations may vary depending on individual treatment plans and the advice given by your orthodontist or dentist.

Is the Sleeping Position for TMJ Patients Different When Wearing a Retainer at Night?

The best position for tmj patients remains unchanged even when they wear a retainer at night. Maintaining a relaxed posture while sleeping, with the head and neck in alignment, is crucial for optimum support and comfort. This helps alleviate any potential discomfort associated with TMJ and allows the retainer to perform its function effectively.


What type of retainer should I wear while sleeping?

There are three main types of retainers that can be worn while sleeping: clear retainers, traditional retainers, and fixed retainers while Clear Aligner Retainers and Spring Retainers are not recommended.

Retainer TypeSuggested for Sleeping?
Hawley RetainersYes
Essix RetainersYes
Fixed RetainersYes
Clear Aligner RetainersNo
Spring RetainersNo
types of retainers that can be worn while sleeping

Ultimately, the type of retainer that is best for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

What are the benefits of wearing a retainer while sleeping?

Wearing a retainer while sleeping is an effective way to ensure that the teeth remain properly aligned. Most retainers need to be worn consistently for around eight hours to be effective, and it’s easier to achieve this by wearing the mouthpiece overnight after falling asleep and won’t notice.

Additionally, wearing a retainer overnight eliminates the discomfort caused by the retainer when eating, brushing teeth, or doing other activities that require an empty mouth.

How can I make wearing a retainer at night more comfortable?

To make wearing a retainer at night more comfortable, try

  • wearing it during the day for short periods to get your mouth used to it.
  • When sleeping, avoid sleeping on your back and try sleeping on your side instead. This opens up nasal passages, making breathing easier.
  • Consider propping yourself up on an extra pillow for greater breathing opportunities.
  • Keep your retainer beside your toothbrush or on a bedside table to make it a part of your sleep hygiene routine.
  • Do not use it if you sleep with whitening strips
  • If your retainer is slipping out of position, discover why and take appropriate action.
  • Always wear your retainer according to what your orthodontist recommends.

Are there any risks associated with wearing a retainer while sleeping?

There is little direct research on the specific sleep-related side effects of wearing retainers while sleeping. However, it is possible that wearing a retainer at night could cause dry mouth, which can be a symptom of sleep apnea. Additionally, getting used to wearing a retainer while sleeping can take time and may cause initial discomfort, which could potentially affect sleep quality.

While wearing a retainer while sleeping is generally considered safe and beneficial for maintaining the position of your teeth, there are a few potential risks to be aware of:

  1. Discomfort and Irritation: Wearing a retainer, especially initially, may cause some discomfort or irritation. This can include soreness in the gums, tongue, or cheeks, as well as increased salivation. These issues are typically temporary and should subside as your mouth adjusts to the retainer.
  2. Increased Saliva Production: Wearing a retainer while sleeping can sometimes lead to increased saliva production, which may cause temporary excessive drooling or a feeling of excessive moisture in your mouth.
  3. Teeth Shifting: If you don’t wear your retainer consistently, especially at night, there is a risk of teeth shifting or relapse. This can result in some degree of misalignment and may require additional orthodontic treatment to correct.
  4. Bruxism-Related Issues: If you have a habit of teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism), wearing a retainer while sleeping may exacerbate this issue. The pressure from grinding or clenching can potentially damage the retainer or cause discomfort.
  5. Oral Hygiene Challenges: Wearing a retainer while sleeping may make it more challenging to maintain proper oral hygiene. It can trap food particles or bacteria against your teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay or gum problems. It’s important to clean your retainer regularly and practice thorough oral hygiene routines.

Is it okay to wear my retainer if I have sleep apnea?

There is currently no evidence that wearing a retainer causes sleep apnea. However, individuals who require orthodontic treatment may have a higher risk for sleep apnea due to obstruction of the nasal airway.

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea (nowadays even an Apple Watch can detect sleep apnea), it is important to discuss any concerns about wearing a retainer with your doctor. They may recommend sleeping with a CPAP machine (continuous positive air pressure) or other treatments to manage your sleep apnea while wearing a retainer. It is crucial to prioritize your health and safety by following your doctor’s recommendations. And read more about whether you can sleep with airpods in.

What is the best way to store my retainer when not in use?

Proper storage of retainers is crucial to ensure that they remain in good condition and continue to serve their purpose. When not in use, retainers should be kept in their appliance case to prevent damage or loss. If you do not carry a bag, make sure to wear something with pockets. Avoid leaving your retainer at home, as this can disrupt your treatment plan.

Can you choke on your retainer in your sleep?

While it is possible to feel like you are choking when wearing a retainer, there is no evidence to suggest that retainers can actually cause choking. However, wearing a retainer at night may take some getting used to and can cause discomfort or saliva buildup. To avoid any potential issues, it’s recommended to avoid sleeping on your back and sleep on your side instead.

If your retainer falls out of place while sleeping, it may be due to teeth pushing it out or discomfort. To keep your retainer in place, try to wear it consistently and bring it into your sleep hygiene routine.

Wearing retainers only at night after braces

After completing braces or Invisalign, your orthodontist will give you a retainer to maintain your teeth’s new position. While most orthodontists recommend wearing it for the rest of your life, retainers only need to be worn at night. Your teeth will always be slowly moving back to their original positions, so wearing a retainer helps combat this process. Eventually, you can just wear the retainer at night while sleeping. Remember, wearing your retainer is crucial to maintaining your ideal bite.

Why does my retainer feel tight every night?

Retainers can feel tight every night due to teeth shifting, neglecting to wear the retainer, or a poor fit. When teeth shift, the retainer needs to be worn every night until it doesn’t feel tight.

To alleviate discomfort, try wearing the retainer for shorter periods of time and gradually increasing wear time. If the discomfort persists, consult your orthodontist. Practice talking in front of a mirror to adjust to excess saliva and speech difficulties. Additionally, use orthodontic wax to alleviate pain in areas where the retainer is annoying the inside of your mouth.

By consistently wearing the retainer and taking steps to alleviate discomfort, you can ensure your teeth stay in the correct places.


By lezt

Lez Taylor, Founder and CEO of Corala Blanket. She tried every sleep system and trick to conquer her insomnia for good.