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Redheads & Dental Sensitivity/Pain – Is there a link between the two?

Redheads & Dental Sensitivity/Pain – Is there a link between the two?

Do Redheads experience increased dental sensitivity???

Recently we had one of our lovely red headed patients in the office preparing to undergo a procedure she had long been awaiting. But, like so many people, she brought with her a certain level of fear in anticipation of dental pain. Until recently, it was unclear as to whether or not there were any links to red hair and dental pain. However, recent evidence points to a genetic mutation in red headed patients which could actually predispose these patients to feelings of discomfort in the chair.

The MC1R gene functions to produce melanin, the substance responsible for skin and hair pigmentation. In people whose MC1R gene has undergone mutation, the variation of this gene will produce pheomelanin, which results in red hair and fair skin. Interestingly enough, in addition to being linked to red hair pigmentation, MC1R is also part of a group of receptors in the brain that interpret pain. Scientists and dentists are now understanding more and more what used to be seemingly anecdotal is actually based in science: that red headed patients are more sensitive to dental pain. Studies have shown that people with MC1R variations actually require, on average, 20% more dental anesthetic than those who do not have the mutation. Patients who have had a painful experience in the dental chair in the past are more likely to have more dental anxiety in subsequent visits. A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association explains that because of this, red headed people are almost twice as likely to avoid going to the dentist altogether.

Fear not, we’re here to help. Patients who suspect they may have the MC1R gene mutation are encouraged to talk to their dentist about any concerns they may have. Brentwood Dental Excellence is equipped with a few different methods to relieve dental anxiety to ensure a comfortable and pleasant visit – ranging from Nitrous to Sedation Dentistry. Oh, and as for the patient mentioned in the beginning of the article, her appointment went off without a hitch. And now she has a gorgeous smile to match her gorgeous hair!


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