US woman develops European accent

An American woman has developed a European accent after undergoing dental surgery.

Karen Butler has never been to Europe but 18 months after the procedure her ‘foreign’ accent remains.

The 56-year-old tax consultant from Toledo, Oregon, has found her life transformed by the dental procedure, which left her with dentures and – depending on whom you ask – an Eastern European, Swedish or British accent.

Karen Butler had all her top teeth and front bottom teeth removed in November 2009 because of gingivitis. A week later the swelling had gone away, but she still sounded strange. Her dentist told her she just had to get used to her new teeth.

But as weeks stretched on with no change, she did some online research and diagnosed herself with Foreign Accent Syndrome, a medical condition with only a few dozen documented cases.

The syndrome is often the result of brain injury, though it is uncommon. Most neurologists will see at least one case in their career, said Dr. Helmi Lutsep, professor and vice-chair of the Department of Neurology at Oregon Health & Science University.

She believes she hasn’t had a stroke or any brain trauma. She said she has tried but hasn’t been able to get a brain scan because she said her medical insurance will not cover it.

“There’s nothing wrong with having an accent,” she said.