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Can Orthodontics Cause Sleep Apnea?

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little girl sleeping

You were probably introduced to orthodontics as a child, seeing friends and classmates in braces while still in elementary school. Maybe you had braces yourself. Because orthodontics has been around for so long, you’d think there wouldn’t be any controversy associated with it, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are a number of health blogs, “gurus”, and even doctors who worry that orthodontic treatment can cause someone to develop sleep apnea. Are they onto something, or is this claim something you can just ignore?

Why People Think Orthodontics Can Cause Sleep Apnea

The assertion that orthodontics can lead to sleep apnea looks something like this: a lot of orthodontic treatment involves pushing the teeth back and changing the shape of the jawbone. This, in turn, can alter the position of the tongue, which can cause it to fall toward the back of the throat during sleep, blocking the airway. This is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and it’s the most common form of the disorder. It affects about 20 million Americans, and that rate is only increasing. So, can orthodontics be blamed for this trend?


Because of this growing concern, the American Association of Orthodontists performed a two-year review of 4,000 scientific studies to see if any cases of OSA could be connected to orthodontic treatment, and in short, they found nothing. Treatments like braces, Invisalign, and even headgear were part of the review, and they still found no correlation between orthodontics and the risk for OSA. The reason the disorder is becoming more common is most likely due to the increasing rate of obesity in the U.S., which is a leading risk factor for all types of sleep problems.

The Opposite is the Truth

Sleep dentistry, in which dental care is used to help a person sleep better and resolve sleep issues, has become more popular over the years, and orthodontics is a big part of it. By reorienting the teeth and directing proper jaw development, orthodontists can actually open up the upper airway and reduce OSA symptoms. Treatments like braces and Invisalign have been shown to greatly reduce or even resolve chronic snoring and stoppages in breathing throughout the night.

There is a lot of information out there about orthodontics, sleep apnea, and how they are related. But, the orthodontists themselves are all saying the same thing—orthodontic care can help those with OSA, not make it worse. So, if you’re worried that getting braces or Invisalign for yourself or your child will lead to sleep problems, you can now put this concern to bed.

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Shirck is a board-certified orthodontist who has served the Columbus area for over a decade. In addition to providing hands-on services for people of all ages, he also shares the latest findings so that our patients are well-informed about their treatment options. If you have any questions about orthodontics and sleep apnea, he would be more than happy to answer them, and you can get in touch with Shirck Orthodontics by clicking here.