(JADA) shows that people with a specific gene tend to experience increased dental anxiety during routine dental treatment. This gene occurs more often in redheads than the general population. A second study showed that redheads need 20% more anesthesia, and it wears off faster than in blondes or dark haired people. Perhaps, the need for increased anesthesia has caused many of these redheads to fear dental treatment?
The dental anxiety study included 144 people (67 with red hair and 77 with dark hair) who answered various questions about dental fears and dental anxieties. Following survey questions, blood samples were taken to test for the presence of specific gene variations. People with one specific gene, melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), were more than twice as likely to report dental fear and dental anxiety than those without the gene. 85 patients had the gene in the study and 65 of them were redheads. This same gene is also thought to be responsible for increased sensitivity to thermal pain and increased resistance to the effects of local anesthesia.
The research teams believes variations of the MC1R gene play a role. This MC1R gene produces melanin, which gives skin, hair and eyes their distinctive color.
While blond, brown and black-haired people produce melanin, those with red hair have a mutation of this receptor. It produces a different coloring called pheomelanin, which results in freckles, fairer skin and red hair. Approximately 5% of whites are believed to have these characteristics.
While the relationship between MC1R and pain sensitivity is not known completely, researchers have discovered MC1R receptors in the brain and some of them are known to influence pain sensitivity. As stated above, non redheads can also carry the gene.
Tips to Deal With Dental Anxiety and Dental Pain
-Communication. Keeping open lines of communication is always important to ensure proper numbing is being obtained to make the patient comfortable. Discussing all aspects of dental anxiety ahead of time will ensure the best possible outcomes for the patient.
-Medication. Many patients do very well taking a pre visit valium to relax themselves and remove excess dental anxiety. It will also allow the anesthesia to work more effectively during the visit because you are so relaxed.
-Distraction. Use of an ipod, to listen to music during your dental visits places your mind in a relaxed state. It helps to drown out unwanted noise.
What Does It All Mean?
Many redheads will present with increased dental anxiety as well as be more resistant to local anesthesia. So, both dentist and patient need to be aware of these situations. A dentist armed with this knowledge will approach these patients differently and ask specific questions about past anesthesia issues, as well as past dental anxiety and experiences. You do not have to have red hair to experience dental anxiety or have difficulty getting numb. There are many ways to address both problems and overcome them with proper techniques and good communication.