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Thread: Study: Redheads' extra pain may cause fear of dentists

  1. #1

    Default Study: Redheads' extra pain may cause fear of dentists

    This CNN article surprised me. Has anyone else ever heard of this before? Any natural red-heads care to weigh in?

    Studies have indicated that redheads may be more sensitive to pain and may need more anesthetics to numb them.
    "The persistent rumor in the anesthesia community was that redheads were difficult to anesthetize," Sessler said. "They didn't go under, had a lot of pain, didn't respond well to anesthesia. Urban legends usually don't start studies, but it was such an intriguing observation."

    This led to two studies. In 2004, research showed that people with red hair need 20 percent more general anesthesia than blonds and brunettes.

    A 2005 study indicated that redheads are more sensitive to thermal pain and are more resistant to the effects of local anesthesia.

    Researchers believe variants of the melanocortin-1 receptor gene play a role. This MC1R gene produces melanin, which gives skin, hair and eyes their color.
    While the relationship between MC1R and pain sensitivity is not entirely understood, researchers have found MC1R receptors in the brain and some of them are known to influence pain sensitivity.

    Non-redheads can also carry a variant of the MC1R gene. In this dental study that had 144 participants, about a quarter of the non-redheads had variants of the MC1R gene. These people also experienced heightened anxiety and avoided dental care compared with others who did not have the variant.
    JADA Study
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  2. #2
    That chalkboard guy Array Matthew_Z's Avatar
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    Jun 2009


    I have auburn hair, but I can relate to the "sensitive redhead" idea. (If I recall correctly, Auburn hair is caused by the presence of both the "red" and "brown" pigments) I remember a time at the dentist where the local anesthesia would not work and they had to resort to levels that essentially numbed the whole right side of my face.

    On a side note, my parents always observed that I appeared more sensitive to touching things than others.

    And yes, I have heard this story before.
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  3. #3
    You're fired. Lol. Array Antimony's Avatar
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    Jun 2009
    8w7 sx/sp


    My hair shines red.

    I don't know if that counts.
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  4. #4
    Iron Maiden Array fidelia's Avatar
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    May 2009
    1w2 so/sx


    That's so interesting - I went to a workshop on parenting/teaching children. One of the things they told us (I can't remember how to find them but there was documented studies) that there were several markers of people likely to be very emotionally sensitive: preemies, boys, red heads, people of Celtic origin, babies who had had the cord cut too soon after birth... They brought it up because they believed that the experience of emotional sensitivity too great to bear made it easier for these people to be more likely to harden up emotionally, which had big implications for the process of maturing emotionally, ADD, risky behaviours, development of attachment to people caring for them and so on. Don't know if that has any relation to this study, but it is an interesting correlation.

  5. #5
    Nerd King Usurper Array Edgar's Avatar
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    Oct 2008


    This is funny... I remeber reading about a study few years ago that said redheads have higher tolerance for pain.

    Guess there are dumbasses in scientific fields too.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Array WoodsWoman's Avatar
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    Dec 2007


    From light strawberry blond at 3, through various shades of auburn, now relatively dark. I've heard this before and it seems to be true of me. My dentist tells me he needs to use more numbing agent on me compared to most of his clients.

    Or I've just been surrounded with people who had higher thresholds of pain than I do...

  7. #7


    I don't know that I have this MC1R gene, but as a child I had strawberry blonde hair till about 3 1/2 - 4 years old. Some of my great aunts were redheads on both sides of the family, but I plead ignorance on how that would carry down.

    I have experienced this issue with anesthesia though. Not only has it been ineffective at the dentist (they had to give multiple shots and the left side of my face appeared to be filled with bags of saline), but I've responded VERY poorly to anesthesia when hospitalized. (Hallucinations, hives, vomiting, dizziness, disorientation etc.)

    It's a curious connection.
    "There is no god; there is only us. Savage and fragile."

  8. #8
    Senior Member Array dga's Avatar
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    Apr 2008


    strawberry blond, red beard, high threshold of discomfort here. ive met some freaky redheads into some pain, too

  9. #9
    Senior Member Array wildcat's Avatar
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    Jun 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by iwakar View Post
    This CNN article surprised me. Has anyone else ever heard of this before? Any natural red-heads care to weigh in?

    JADA Study
    Non redheads carry the variant. True.
    You need both parents of the variant.
    To become a redhead that is.

    The origin of red hair took place east of the Aral sea ca 9000 B.C.
    It is a cluster. That is, not a mutation per se.

    Red hair came to manifest among both types of the Y-hg-R.
    Only after the dichotomy of the Y-hg-R.

    The dichotomy does not read backward.
    We do.

  10. #10


    Strawberry blonde here. Can't really confirm this study, I hate pain but I guess that is just a normal human reaction.

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