Why You Might Sound British After Visiting the Dentist

Julie Clark Robinson on 9 May 2011 at 4:00pm

Imagine going to the dentist to improve your smile with Invisalign or teeth whitening and coming home with a tad more than you bargained for – a foreign accent. That’s exactly what has happened as many as 60 times since the first case came to the surface in 1941. 

Oregonian Karen Butler had some dental work done in 2009 and now she speaks with all the charisma of Kate Middleton, the newly crowned Duchess of Cambridge. Or maybe it's Irish...or South African?  It was hard to tell in her recent Today Show interview

Karen Buter has foreign accent syndromeHere’s the scoop:

  • Neurologists believe that foreign accent syndrome is a result of a trauma to the brain such as a stroke.
  • Migraines have also been linked to the syndrome. (A British woman spoke with a Chinese accent after a terrible one).
  • Scientists say that the original voice could return (or not) at any time.

In Butler’s case, her accent change came simply from the sedative used in routine oral surgery.  At first her mouth was tender and swollen from the procedure, so the fact that she was speaking differently didn’t really worry her.  Months later when the dental work was all but a memory, Karen still sounded as if she was from another continent.

People with Foreign Accent Syndrome almost always remain within their native language but they use a completely different accent. English is English after all, right?  Maybe, but I’d say Karen Butler got a sweeter deal than, say, a bloke over in Liverpool who ends up sounding like (Jersey Shore’s) “The Situation”.

Photo Credit: NBC's Today Show