Study: Why redheads avoid the dentist

March 26, 2012

Issue 3

An American study found that redheads are more nervous about visiting the dentist and are twice as likely to avoid going because they experience more pain.

An American study found that redheads are more nervous about visiting the dentist and are twice as likely to avoid going because they experience more pain.

Researchers at Southampton University Hospital are carrying out trials this year to discover whether pale-skinned patients may require more anesthetic than the rest of the population. The results should either confirm or disprove previous research in the United States suggesting that redheads are indeed more susceptible to pain.

Red hair results from variants of a gene that plays a key role in human hair and skin color. The same gene is involved in the production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. The Southampton study aims to find out whether this could explain redheads' apparently heightened sensitivity.

In the trials, due to end in September, volunteers aged over 30 with red hair are anesthetised and subjected to electrical charges through their thigh. Their reactions will be compared with those of a group of men and women with brown or black hair.

If it turns out that red-haired people do feel more pain, it will help to explain previous research showing they are more fearful than other groups about visiting the dentist. An American study found that redheads were more anxious about dental treatment and more than twice as likely to avoid it. A second study by the same researchers found that women with red hair needed 19 per cent more painkiller to stop them flinching from unpleasant stimulation than women with dark hair. "Redheads experience more pain from a given stimulus and therefore require more anesthesia to alleviate that pain," said Dr Edwin Liem, who led the study at Louisville University.

Source: The Independent