Say "Mississippi"! Pediatric Dental Patient Experiences Powerful Life-Changing Procedure

Nadelhoffer-Cullen, D.D.S., and Cynthia Valdovinos, EFDA assistant, bond over a dental solution success.

Nadelhoffer-Cullen, D.D.S., and Cynthia Valdovinos, EFDA assistant, bond over a dental solution success.

While recently treating an 11-year-old One Community Health (OCH) patient, Evonne Nadelhoffer-Cullen, D.D.S. couldn’t help but notice the girl was struggling with her speech. The patient, who became eligible for Medicaid this past October, was tongue-tied. In addition to pronouncing other sounds, saying words with the letters “s” and “f” was an oral acrobatic feat. And although she’d had extensive speech therapy, her issue had gone unresolved since birth.

Also unresolved was all the emotional pain this girl had been experiencing. In fact, things had really come to a head. She was being made fun of by bullies at school and pressured by her teacher to perform in spite of having an obvious speech impediment. Dr. Nadelhoffer-Cullen made the suggestion to surgically release her tongue to which the patient and her father quickly agreed.

Just after the procedure, still numb and just starting the healing process, this patient beamed with a big smile, realizing she could suddenly stick her tongue to the roof of her mouth and out far enough to touch her chin. This and other tongue tricks were actually easy and, better yet, her speech was transformed.

“I asked her to say, 'Mississippi,'” recalls Dr. Nadelhoffer-Cullen, who was assisted in the procedure by Cynthia Valdovinos, EFDA assistant. “We listened to her say it perfectly—and it was just awesome! This girl was all grins.”

Then the patient’s father asked his daughter to go to the waiting room while he spoke to the dentist and her assistant.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling a big smile as well. “You have changed her life.”

One week later, Dr. Nadelhoffer-Cullen (purposefully wearing her superhero scrubs in honor of her patient) and Cynthia met the girl and her father for the follow-up appointment. The OCH team couldn’t help but notice how their patient was still smiling as if she couldn’t believe she was actually speaking without struggle.

Apparently, that glowing expression hadn’t changed all week, according to the father who reported, “She even smiled going to school.”