Dental patients with red hair tend to have an increased level of dental anxiety and discomfort as opposed to people with darker brown or black hair. Research has determined that this is most likely due to a specific gene that only red headed people have. The Melanocortin-1 Receptor gene (MC1R) is the gene that affects skin pigmentation and hair color, making a person’s hair red and their skin fair. The way these genes function may affect how pain stimuli is interpreted in the brain, or affect the way other cells function in regard to pain sensitivity. While the exact reason isn’t sure, researchers believe that because of this gene, red headed people do in need respond differently to anesthesia during dental or surgical procedures.
Red headed people (especially women) may be resistant to certain types of anesthesia, requiring up to 20% more in order to achieve comfort during dental procedures. WIth typical levels of anesthesia it may be difficult to gain full comfort. Administration of the medication may be more sensitive as well, thereby increasing the anxiety that many red headed dental patients have. Utilizing nitrous oxide (laughing gas) may help with this. If you are one of these patients you may want to have a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication written by the dentist for you to take prior to your appointment.
If patients undergo surgical procedures they will need to discuss medication with their surgeon prior to the procedure as to whether or not a different type of medication may need to be used. In some cases, certain types of analgesics may actually be more effective than others, causing the red headed patient to be more sensitive to the medication, making it more difficult to overcome full sedation affects after a major surgery.
Posted on behalf of Dr. David Kurtzman
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