Many people wonder if wearing braces overnight can make their teeth move and straighten faster. The short answer is yes, keeping your braces on at night allows your teeth to move more efficiently.

How braces work?

Braces apply gentle pressure to the teeth, encouraging them to shift into proper alignment. This pressure needs to be constant and consistent in order to be effective.

Braces consist of small brackets that are glued or bonded to each tooth. A wire is threaded through each bracket, applying forces to the teeth. The orthodontist can adjust the wire to guide teeth into specific positions.

As the wire presses against a tooth, it triggers the periodontal ligament to start remodeling the bone around the root. The ligament breaks down on the side where pressure is applied and starts building up on the opposite side where tension is relieved. This process causes the tooth to slowly shift position over time.

The speed and amount of tooth movement depends on the amount of force applied by the wire against each tooth. Tooth movement follows Newton’s Third Law of Motion – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. A heavier wire applies more force and can move teeth faster, while a lighter wire is gentler.

Wearing braces for the recommended 22 hours a day allows for optimum time for the teeth to move. At night, when you are sleeping, your jaw muscles relax. This creates an excellent opportunity for the teeth to respond to the forces of the braces with minimal resistance from the muscles.

Why nighttime movement matters?

Wearing braces overnight is crucial for several reasons:

  • Teeth move faster when forces are applied consistently over a greater period of time. Keeping braces on at night maximizes the time they are able to work. Research shows that teeth move up to 30-50% faster when braces are worn full-time.
  • Saliva flow decreases at night. During the day, the constant bathing effects of saliva dampen some of the forces from braces. With less disruption from salivary forces, teeth feel the effects of braces more strongly overnight.
  • The relaxed jaw state at night allows for greater tooth movement with less pain or discomfort. During sleep, the pterygoid and masseter muscles that control jaw movement are at rest. This prevents them from resisting or tightening against orthodontic forces.
  • Less risk of braces or wires breaking when asleep. The unconscious clenching and grinding during wake hours can sometimes damage orthodontic appliances. Wearing braces at night avoids this damage.

How much do teeth actually shift overnight?

How much do teeth actually shift overnight?

Many patients want to know just how much their teeth can move while they sleep. The speed of tooth movement can vary based on:

  • Your age – Younger patients tend to respond to orthodontic forces more quickly. Teens and children have faster cellular turnover rates and more elastic tissues. Adult braces progress at a slower pace.
  • Your oral health – Teeth in a healthy environment with healthy roots, bones, and gums often move faster. Issues like gum disease, cavities, or past trauma can hinder movement.
  • Your orthodontic prescription – The type of braces (metal, ceramic, lingual), the wire alloy, and method of adjustments determine the forces applied. More precise prescriptions allow for lighter forces.
  • Your individual biology – Variations in density and structure of the alveolar bone and periodontal tissues affect rate of movement. Thin, porous bones shift faster.
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On average, most patients see anywhere from 0.25mm to 1mm of tooth movement per month. So overnight, you can expect about 0.008mm to 0.03mm of shifting. While barely noticeable day-to-day, these tiny changes add up week-by-week and month-by-month! This gradual movement is what allows your teeth to progress properly into alignment over time.

To visualize 1mm of movement, think of the thickness of a dime or the edge of a credit card. Aligners like Invisalign aim to move teeth by 0.25mm to 0.33mm with each tray change, which is usually every 2 weeks. Damon braces claim to move teeth up to 1mm per month. Again, by keeping braces on day and night, you maximize these small shifts.

Tips for wearing braces at night

To maximize the benefits of wearing your braces overnight, follow these tips:

Clean carefully before bed

Be sure to brush and floss thoroughly before sleep. Food and plaque left in the braces can lead to cavities, decalcification marks, and gum disease. Use an oral irrigator or proxy brush to clean carefully around brackets and under wires if needed.

Use orthodontic wax

Apply orthodontic wax to any brackets, wires, or parts of your braces that may irritate your lips, cheeks or gums while you sleep. This prevents sores and ulcers and helps you sleep soundly without discomfort.

Wear headgear as directed

Some orthodontic prescriptions require wearing extraoral headgear appliances at night. The headgear may include facebows, elastics, or springs. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions carefully about hours of wear and care.

Sleep in a comfy position

Find sleeping positions that feel natural with braces. Side sleeping or propped up on pillows often works well. Use an extra pillow to support your head if needed. Avoid positions that press your face forcibly into the mattress.

Avoid hard, sticky foods after dinner

Foods like caramel, chewing gum, popcorn kernels, nuts, seeds, hard candies or ice can damage braces at night when you are less alert. Brush carefully after eating anything sticky.

What if you can’t wear braces all night?

What if you can't wear braces all night?

Life happens, and sometimes braces need to come off at night. For example:

  • Sports practices or games may require you to remove braces temporarily for safety with mouthguards. Consult your orthodontist first.
  • Band, choir or drama performances when you play a wind instrument or sing. Braces can interfere with playing instruments properly.
  • Important occasions like prom, graduations, weddings or professional photoshoots where you want your smile to dazzle without braces.
  • Medical or dental procedures that require access into the mouth without wires or bands in the way. Inform all providers you have braces.
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Taking braces off occasionally won’t undermine your treatment as long as it is not a regular habit. Just try to maximize the nights you keep them in. Some tips for short-term removal:

  • Ask your orthodontist which situations require brace removal. Never attempt to remove them yourself.
  • Schedule appointments with your orthodontist to remove and replace braces carefully with proper tools before and after the event. Improper removal can damage the cement or root surfaces.
  • Rinse your mouth and braces thoroughly before reinserting to prevent infection or irritation.
  • Resume 22-hour wear immediately after the event for best, uninterrupted progress.
  • Schedule extra adjustment appointments if teeth shift significantly without braces for an extended period.

Other orthodontic appliances worn at night

In some cases, different orthodontic appliances may be used in conjunction with braces for overnight wear:

  • Elastics – Tiny rubber bands that connect different parts of your braces or appliances. Worn per orthodontist’s instructions to enhance or direct certain tooth movements.
  • Headgear or facemasks – Appliance with strap around the head or face that attaches to braces via springs or elastics. Provides anchorage for major tooth movements.
  • Herbst appliances – Device worn in the mouth with jointed rods connecting top and bottom braces. Keeps jaw positioned properly.
  • Retainers – Custom removable plastic plates that hold teeth in corrected positions after braces treatment. Worn at night to prevent shifting.
  • Sleep apnea devices – Oral appliances like mandibular advancement devices keep the airway open at night. May be integrated with braces.
  • Mouthguards – Plastic covers to protect teeth from grinding (bruxism) or sports impacts while sleeping or playing.

Be sure to follow all directions from your orthodontist for the best results with any prescribed overnight wear appliances. Track your progress and keep all scheduled adjustment visits.

When will I see overnight changes from my braces?

When will I see overnight changes from my braces?

Don’t expect to wake up one morning with drastically straighter teeth after just one night in braces. Tooth movement is a gradual process, happening incrementally. You’ll notice small, subtle changes and improvements week-by-week as alignment improves.

Your orthodontist will likely make frequent wire and bracket changes during the first months to keep pressure focused in all the right areas as things begin shifting. Make sure to keep all your adjustment appointments for maximum, uninterrupted progress.

Appreciate even tiny changes in bite and spacing as positive steps forward! overnight shifts that seem almost invisible add up overtime into one beautifully straightened, healthy smile. With diligent braces wear and patience, the final results will be well worth it.

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FAQs About Overnight Orthodontic Tooth Movement

Here are answers to some common questions about wearing braces while you sleep:

Can I take my braces off at night if they are really bothering me?

Occasionally removing braces for a single night is alright for a temporary respite. But consistently leaving them out overnight will slow your treatment progress. See your orthodontist promptly if braces are frequently uncomfortable at night.

What if I grind my teeth a lot (bruxism) at night with braces on?

Inform your orthodontist if you have issues with clenching, grinding or bruxism at night. They may recommend wearing a mouthguard or nightguard alongside your braces to absorb forces and protect your teeth.

Why can’t I eat or drink anything after taking my braces off at night?

Food and beverages left stuck in your braces promotes cavities, stains, and gum disease. Always brush carefully after eating before inserting braces again. Avoid all food and drinks except water with braces out.

Do I still need to wear a retainer at night after my braces come off?

Yes, retainers are crucial for keeping your teeth positioned properly after braces. Not wearing them as directed can allow teeth to gradually shift back towards their original places. Retainers need to be worn for at least 1-2 years post-braces.

Can I sleep on my side or stomach with braces on?

Sleeping on your back keeps your mouth most open to prevent excessive pressure on your braces. But side and stomach sleeping are okay too with care to minimize irritation. Position pillows for comfort and avoid pressing your face forcefully into bedding.


While the incremental shifts may seem minuscule overnight, wearing your orthodontic braces consistently for daytime and nighttime hours is key for achieving straightened teeth efficiently. Follow your orthodontist’s detailed instructions, keep all adjustment visits, maintain excellent oral hygiene and maximize your brace wear time – especially overnight! With dedication, you’ll gain a healthy, beautiful smile you love.

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