Need one more reason to feel anxious about going to the dentist? If you’re a redhead you may already have one. According to a study published in the “Journal of the American Dental Association,” research shows that redheads are genetically predisposed to heightened anxiety during routine trips to the dentist. Read on to find out why, as well as tips and techniques to help deal with dental chair distress.
The Science Behind the Fear
Bottle redheads need not be concerned: research proves that the link between hair color and dental fear is rooted firmly in genetics. Out of 144 participants, of which 77 were brunette and 67 were natural redheads, 65 of the redheads–compared to just 20 of the brunettes–were found to have a specific gene variation called melanocortin-1 or MC1R. People with MC1R were more than twice as likely to put off dental appointments because of nervousness and dread. Researchers have suggested that these results may be due to the fact that MC1R may alter how redheads perceive pain, making them less receptive to local anesthesia, and leading to increased stress over upcoming appointments. This redhead-related fear, which was equally exhibited in men and women, is not surprising: MC1R–not typically present in the general population–is itself a cause of red hair color.
Easing Dental Anxiety
Delaying or avoiding dental care can have significant consequences for overall health. Periodontal disease has been linked to a number of serious conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. While it may be stressful now, the benefits of twice-yearly checkups can’t be ignored. For those with dental phobia, these tips can help make the experience less stressful. First, keep in mind that dental care may have significantly changed since your last visit due to advances in modern dentistry, making visits quicker and less painful. Also, communication is key: don’t be embarrassed by your anxiety. With access to the right information, your dentist can work with you to provide a supportive environment tailored to your individual needs. Make a written list in advance of your appointment so you can be sure to address all of your concerns. As with most things in life, proper preparation is paramount to a positive outcome, and the dentist’s office is no different. Schedule your appointment at an opportune time of day, and be sure to get a good night’s sleep the prior evening. Your primary care physician or dentist may be able to provide you with a sleep aid to ensure a restful night. If the whirring sound of the drill or bright lighting of your dentist’s office triggers your stress, drown them out by bringing along an eye mask, headphones, MP3 player, and favorite relaxing music. Some dentist’s offices even provide virtual reality goggles! If none of these stress management techniques do the trick, consider sedation dentistry. This growing field offers a variety of options to help manage anxiety and pain. These may include oral dental sedation, IV sedation and laughing gas. For your added convenience some dentists even accept credit cards online, with a discount for prepayment. While redheads are widely admired for their luminous skin, fiery hair and equally fiery personalities, dental fear is an unfortunate downside of this recessive trait. But with proper preparation and management techniques, redheads can overcome anxiety and prevail in the dental chair. Joanna Hughes enjoys writing about all things, from fashion and style to lifestyle and health.