Have you got red hair? Are you afraid of the dentist?

The same gene variation that causes red hair is also associated with fear of dental work, according to new research in the U.S.

There is a growing body of evidence that a mutation on the MC1R gene, found in most redheads, also causes a resistance to anesthesia. Redheads could require as much as 20 per cent more anesthesia to numb their mouths before treatment.

A team of doctors and dentists based at the Cleveland Clinic enrolled 144 young people in a study. Sixty-seven of them had natural red hair and 77 were dark-haired. They all filled out questionnaires on their degree of fear of dental pain, anxiety about the dentist, and previous bad experiences at the dentist. The participants’ blood was checked for presence of the gene variant often associated with red hair.

Almost all of the red-haired people had the gene variation on MC1R (65 out of 67), while just over a quarter of the dark-haired people had it (20 out of 77). Those with the gene variation reported much higher fear and pain associated with the dentist. They were twice as likely to avoid the dentist. The report, which appeared in the Journal of the American Dental Association, suggested dentists take special care with red-haired patients.

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