Saline-based Akervall Technologies, maker of the SISU Mouthguard, has been making national headlines in recent months.
The company was named a finalist in the "Injury and Disease Prevention" category in the 2018 Edison Awards, a national program that recognizes innovation. The winners will be announced during a ceremony April 11 in New York City.
Additionally, the company was selected for addition to the network of high-impact Michigan entrepreneurs that make up Endeavor Detroit, and Crain's Detroit Business named Akervall CEO Sassa Akervall a Notable Woman in Manufacturing.
The company's success comes after many years of scaling up what started as a kitchen-table business.
"My husband invented a guard for surgery originally, and when we moved here from Sweden in 2004, he had already used the guards in his practice as an ear, nose, and throat oncology doctor," Sassa Akervall says.
A few years after moving to the U.S., the Akervalls' daughter was about to join a field hockey team. Sassa's husband, Jan Akervall, tried a variation of the mouthguard on their daughter, replacing the bulky old-fashioned ones with a smaller but tougher version that made it easier to breathe, talk, and hydrate during a game. Their daughter tested a prototype, and the whole team eventually adopted them, Sassa says.
From there, Jan became the chief medical officer and Sassa the CEO of a company with "a mission to save teeth," Sassa says. "It's been exciting to run the company and see how it has grown from virtually nothing. We have a really great product, and we've probably saved millions of teeth by now."
Akervall says the SISU is quite different from anything else on the market, with the standard model only 1.6 millimeters thick, or 2.4 millimeters thick for the mouthguards marketed for high-impact sports like boxing. The guard is made of a non-compressible material that distributes force throughout the material, where it is absorbed before it can make it to the teeth.
"They come flat, and you put them in hot water. They become soft and pliable, and you mold them to your teeth. You get a perfect, snug fit," Akervall says.
The Akervalls are always looking to expand their product line. They recently created a partnership with another company to sell a nighttime mouthguard for people who grind their teeth in their sleep, and will be co-branding with a company that makes Placker's Grind-No-More mouthguards.
The company is now also producing a mouthguard to protect teeth during the intubation process in medical procedures.
"The intubation guard is where Jan started the whole thing, and now it has come full circle," Akervall says.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Akervall Technologies.