In August of 2009 the New York Times published an article entitled “The Pain of Being a Redhead” based off an article written by JADA (Journal of the American Dental Association). New research indicates a greater difficulty for dentists to achieve adequate anesthesia with redheads, as they tend to be more resistant to local pain blockers. Due to this, redheads are more afraid of the dentist and the pain they may incur, and and as a result are twice as likely to avoid the dentist.
Redheads have a mutation in their gene for the melanocortin-1 receptor. So instead of producing melanin, there is a production of pheomelanin resulting in red hair and fair skin. When researchers tested for the mutation in the MC1R gene, they found the variant was in 65 of the 67 redheads they tested, and only in 20 of the 77 people with brown or black hair. The MC1R gene belongs to a family of receptors that include pain receptors in the brain, and as a result, a mutation in the gene appears to influence the body’s sensitivity to pain. Studies thus show that due to the increase in sensitivity, redheads need a higher dose of anesthesia than say blondes or brunets.
The best way to avoid a uncomfortable visit to the dentist for a redhead, is for the dentist to be aware that it may take more anesthetic to get him/her numb. Not sure your dentist knows that it may take more anesthetic to anesthetize you? Just tell them! Trust me, as a dentist I can safely say, it’s only a positive thing when my patients communicate that sort of information with me. I certainly don’t want the visit to be uncomfortable for you!