Besides being uncomfortable, does wearing retainers at night cause any effects like sleep apnea?

I'm wondering this because I've woken up with dry mouth multiple times after sleeping with my retainer, which is also a symptom of sleep apnea. Of course, having just one symptom doesn't mean much, but almost every time I use retainers, this happens, so I've begun to wonder.

What are the known side effects of sleeping with a retainer?

  • 1
    Are you asking if retainers cause sleep apnea specifically or just poor quality of sleep? They're not at all the same thing.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jan 28, 2016 at 0:51
  • 1
    @CareyGregory Sleep quality in general. I bring up sleep apnea as one possible consideration.
    – Dave Liu
    Jan 28, 2016 at 22:16
  • This quite highly upvoted Q is in the close queue now. Dave, please try to edit and salvage it. Mar 13, 2018 at 19:23
  • @LangLangC Don't know what to edit. The questions seems general enough.
    – Dave Liu
    Mar 17, 2018 at 1:48
  • Unsure myself, but "I"parts and maybe prior research? Mar 17, 2018 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


A systematic review of the side effects of retainers said nothing about sleep related side effects, so they probably are not a significant problem. There are a few related studies that look at an assortment of othodontic treatments and how they affect sleep. I've included them below. An orthodontist would be able to give a more concrete answer.

Also, note that some types of retainers are actually used to treat sleep apnea and related sleep issues (see this for example).

TLDR; Orthodontic treatments such as braces and and retainers can, in general, affect sleep and sleep quality (for good and bad). However, there seems to be little direct research into what specific sleep related side affects retainers cause.

Dry Mouth

From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24554561 (I think this one was looking at braces)

The subjective parameters taste, dry mouth and breath odor did not show statistical differences.

Quality of sleep:

Impact of orthodontic appliances on sleep quality:

CONCLUSIONS: In young orthodontic patients, there appears to be no difference in sleep quality with or without the overnight use of these appliances after they have been worn for a minimum of 3 months.

However, contradicting that study is this one:

Impaired sleep the most rarely occurred for patients treated with removable appliances (40.6%) and braces (51.1%) and the most frequently for patients treated with functional appliances (85.7%) and braces, and head gears (88.9%).

Sleep Apnea

There's no evidence that I'm aware of that retainers (or other orthodontic retainers) cause sleep apnea. Similar devices are sometimes used to treat it, though.

However, people who need braces, retainers, etc. may be at higher risk for it. From the intro of an ape study apparently conducted because of similar complaints:

Oral respiration associated with obstruction of the nasal airway is a common finding among patients seeking orthodontic treatment.

  • 1
    I agree, there is no indication that retainers cause sleep apnea that I've seen. I think the point was actually that the need for orthodontic treatment may be caused by something that can also cause restricted airways - such as a small mouth, such that orthodontic patients may have a higher rate of issues with sleep apnea as well. Should I just remove that section or make that more clear?
    – argentum2f
    Jun 22, 2018 at 15:05
  • Ok, I made that more clear.
    – argentum2f
    Jun 22, 2018 at 15:42
  • 1
    Much clearer now. +1 Jun 22, 2018 at 15:44

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