Snoring is nothing to be sneezed at.
It’s a cause of stress, strife and sleepless nights for millions.
Over 40 per cent of us do it and after financial problems and adultery, it is the third most common cause of divorce.
But for one Sheffield company, the noctural curse is a proving a blessing. Woodseats-based dental laboratory Solutions 4 Snoring has built a business with a turnover of just under £1million on the back of the problem.
S4S spurns crown and denture-making to focus on dental splint technology. Set up in 2005, it has a staff of 16 and is now owned by employees Neil Bullement and orthodontic dental technician Matt Everatt, ex Guy’s Hospital, London.
Through a client base of around 5,500 dentists in the UK and Ireland, S4S are helping snorers sleep peacefully with Sleepwell Mandibular Advancement Splints. Designed and tested in Australia, it is, says the company, the most clinically proven product of its kind on the market, with a 97 per cent success rate for snorers and sufferers of mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.
“We have sold thousands over ten years. Our annual turnover on this device alone is £250,000 but there is a huge market for this device - 40 per cent of us snore,” said Neil Bullement.
“Most people don’t know it exists and waste money on sprays and devices they don’t get results from, then resign themselves to living with their snoring.”
The two-part device, around £350, is made to measure each client’s upper and lower teeth and when clipped into place, alters the lower jaw alignment during sleep. It can only be ordered via dentists. Around 150 in South Yorkshire, listed at www.s4sdental.com, offer the service.
The S4S labs at Acorn Business Park also use their splint expertise to tailor-make devices for people who suffer from bruxism, teeth-grinding and clenching during sleep, relieving symptoms ranging from broken teeth to headaches and neck pain. “Up to 65 per cent of the population, including myself, suffer from bruxism,” said Neil.
A recent addition to the company’s product range is clear aligners, an alternative to wire braces for teeth straightening, for which the company invested over £100,000 in digital scanning and 3D printing technology.`
Love is... Going to bed looking like Jaws, the Bond movie baddie, just so the wife can get a good night’s sleep.
After reading a column I’d penned about the nightmare of a husband who snores, Neil Bulliment got in touch, offering to help.
No more farmyard noises from the other side of the bed, waking me up five times a night? Bring it on.
Fortunately, my husband was tired of being woken up every night, too - by the wife digging him in the ribs.
First, it meant a trip to the dentist. You don’t buy one of these devices off the shelf; perfect fit is essential. Moulds of my husband’s upper and lower jaw had to be taken so that a device could be custom-made at S4S.
He visited the Montgomery Dental Practice on Infirmary Road for diagnostic assessment and to have impressions of his teeth taken, then returned to have the device fitted and checked (future visits may be necessary for adjustments).
Dentist Michael Kirk explained how the Sleepwell works: “It holds the lower jaw forward, which changes muscle tension in the throat and pulls on the larynx, stopping it vibrating,” he said.
“That’s where the noise is caused; it doesn’t come from the nose or the back of the throat, like people think.”
Taking a little screwdriver to make a few adjustments to the device he had clicked into place in my husband’s mouth, he explained: “The top section hooks onto the lower device. Most people can unlock them simply by opening their mouth.”
I felt a surge of guilt; for my sake, my husband’s jaws would be clamped shut all night long.
But Michael, who has fitted devices for hundreds of patients in a decade, assured us not only that it would work, but that patients say they too sleep better thanks to the device.
“Most come to me because their partner has persuaded them to but then they discover there’s a benefit for them, too,” he said.
“They get more oxygen as they sleep, plus they are not being woken up by an irate partner.”
On Night One, my husband Alistair scowled as he clicked what looked like gum shields into place and clipped them together.
I had to remind him that his snoring is not my fault. He mumbled something indistinguishable by way of reply. That’s another bonus of the Sleepwell; once fitted, your husband cannot argue back. It’s like a modern-day, roles-reversed version of a Scold’s Bridle.
It didn’t stop him falling asleep, however; it took him his usual ten seconds, after which I didn’t hear a peep out of him all night, let alone a grunt.
In fact, he was so quiet, it was disconcerting. I actually woke him up to check he was still breathing.
The next morning we both felt we’d had the best sleep in years and two weeks on, bar a few seconds of an attempted snore the other night, our bed is now a zed-free zone. The Sleepwell works like a dream. He sleeps like a baby. Though I have been woken up a few times... By my own gentle zzzzing!
“You learn to ignore the fact that you have an alien object in your mouth for seven hours. The Sleepwell really does work.
“And don’t worry about what it looks like because who’s going to see you apart from the dog? The wife is fast asleep (finally).”