Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Louise Carter
Many people wear retainers created by a dental professional to straighten their teeth. Often, retainers are worn overnight while we sleep. For a retainer to fulfill its purpose, it must remain in place.
Moisten the retainer before pushing it firmly into your mouth, as far as it’ll go. Wear the retainer every night without fail and occasionally during the day to get your mouth used to the addition.
Clear your airways, adjusting your sleeping position to enable nasal breathing.
If the retainer refuses to stay in place overnight, you may need to consult a dental professional. A new mold or a permanently affixed retainer may be required.
Specific steps can keep a retainer from falling out overnight, so try these first.
Why Do We Wear Retainers Overnight?
If fitted for a retainer by a dental professional, you’ll be instructed when to wear it.
Some people are told to wear their retainers all day and night. However, it’s more commonplace to be advised to wear a retainer while sleeping and remove it in the morning.
Most retainers must be worn consistently for around 8 hours to be effective. It’s easier to achieve this by wearing the mouthpiece overnight when we’re asleep and won’t notice.
It’s common for people to fail to wear their retainer. The Australian Orthodontic Journal explains that this could be down to absent-mindedness or discomfort caused by the retainer.
If worn overnight, discomfort won’t be an issue once the retainer molds to the mouth. Also, the retainer won’t need to be removed to eat, brush your teeth, or perform activities that require an empty mouth.
Can Retainers Fall Out at Night?
If your retainer falls out while sleeping, it’s a poor fit. An orthodontist should mold a retainer to your needs, but mistakes happen. Equally, your teeth may have shifted, changing the fit.
Another explanation for a retainer falling out is that you didn’t affix it properly.
A retainer isn’t like a gumshield, meaning it won’t sit loosely over the teeth. It should feel like part of your mouth. If you don’t push the retainer as far as you should, it’ll become loose and slip.
Why Do I Take My Retainer Out in My Sleep?
In theory, retainers should perfectly fit your teeth so they don’t fall out while you sleep. However, you may remove your retainer overnight, even if you don’t realize it.
You may be pushing the retainer out of position with your teeth. Your retainer will be on your pillow or elsewhere in the bed.
Alternatively, you may find the retainer in your hand, suggesting you lift the retainer out manually.
If you wake up with your retainer out of place, you probably won’t remember why. Removing the retainer could have been a panicked reaction from your subconscious.
If the retainer feels like it is restricting essential airflow, your mind and body will react instinctively. Alternatively, it may be due to discomfort.
How To Stop Taking Your Retainer Out in Your Sleep
You need to introduce the application of your retainer to your sleep hygiene routine.
Set the alarm or keep the retainer somewhere you’ll see it before bed, like beside your toothbrush or on a bedside table. Wearing your retainer at night will eventually become second nature.
Things are more challenging if the retainer is slipping out of position overnight. You’ll need to discover why this is happening and take action.
Let’s review some methods for keeping a retainer in place while you sleep:
You must follow the dentist’s schedule when fitted with a retainer. In 99% of cases, you’ll be expected to wear the retainer every night. If this is the case, don’t skip a night, thinking it won’t be a problem.
The more frequently you fail to wear a retainer, the likelier it is to slip out of position in the future.
Without the retainer to hold them in place, your teeth will shift, which will soon become problematic if you skip wearing the retainer repeatedly.
You may get away with forgetting to wear your retainer for a single night, especially if you’ve been sporting it consistently for a year or more. One night on/one night off is a recipe for disaster.
Wear the Retainer by Day
Even though most retainers are for overnight wear, consider occasionally wearing a retainer by day. You may experience issues from not wearing your retainer enough, but it’s rare for it to be worn too much.
The primary purpose of this exercise is to get your mouth used to the retainer.
This is imperative when you’re initially fitted for the mouthpiece. Wearing the retainer may feel strange and uncomfortable, and your mouth may instinctively reject it.
Pop in the retainer when passive, just as you would be during sleep.
Try it for the hour or so before bed when you’re unwinding, simply reading a book or watching TV, or during a workout where you’ll not be focused on the retainer.
You can’t wear a retainer 24/7, as you risk damaging it if you wear it while eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth. Your retainer will also need to be cleaned. The more you wear it, the more natural it’ll feel.
Moisten the Retainer Before Wearing It
If your retainer is bone dry, it’ll become increasingly uncomfortable in your mouth.
A dry retainer also encourages the growth of pathogens in the mouth, leading to plaque and other oral ailments. To enhance comfort, moisten the retainer before use.
A small amount of cold water is okay, but don’t leave the retainer soaking or apply toothpaste. This could damage the wires and rust the metal, shortening the retainer’s lifespan.
Sip water when wearing a retainer to aid hydration and keep the retainer clean.
Keep Your Nasal Airways Clear
Getting used to a retainer in your mouth takes time, especially when sleeping.
The first few times you wear the retainer, it’ll feel strange. You may panic when nodding off to sleep, worrying that the retainer prevents you from breathing correctly.
Part of this will be due to saliva building in your mouth. Your throat needs to adjust to swallowing again without choking. Avoid sleeping on your back when new to wearing a retainer.
Sleeping on your side also opens the nasal passages, making breathing easier.
You’ll feel more comfortable assuming this position even if you’re unaware. Consider propping yourself up on an extra pillow for even more comfortable breathing.
Consult An Orthodontist
An orthodontist may have unique suggestions for keeping your retainer in place. Ask them to review the fit of the retainer as part of your consultation.
The mouthpiece keeps your teeth in position, but they may have shifted. If so, the retainer is no longer suitable, and you’ll need a new mold.
If all else fails, you may consider having a retainer permanently affixed to your teeth. These retainers ( called train tracks) remain in place until your teeth are permanently repositioned.
Fixed retainers require more maintenance than removable retainers because they must be reviewed and tightened periodically. The Journal of Periodontology also connects permanent retainers to receding gums, but the impact is minimal.
Learning to sleep with retainers in place is integral to oral health and getting the desired results.