Urban legend proposes that redheads have fiery tempers and are at risk for becoming extinct by 2060. While those topics are up for debate, research has indicated that redheads tend to have higher levels of dental anxiety and the theory is that stress is triggered by a genetically caused fear of pain (Journal of the American Dental Association).
Previous studies have indicated that redheads tend to need larger doses of anesthetics in order to effectively block pain associated with dental care. New information conducted by scientists at the Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland, Ohio) and School of Dentistry at the University of Louisville, Kentucky have indicated that redheads may indeed feel pain more deeply. That fear is responsible for keeping them away from the dentist.
While some redheaded beauties such as Lucille Ball and Christina Hendricks have secured the outstanding hair color courtesy of hitting the dye bottle, a mutation in the melanocortin-1 receptor gene (MC1R) can lead to the natural combination of red hair and fair skin. This gene will not only provide redheads with their uncommon beauty, it also influences brain receptors in relationship to pain.
The team of U.S. researchers studied 144 white adults with different hair colors. The scientists were specifically looking for the MC1R gene variant. Additionally the team asked study participants about their levels of dental anxiety, dental fear in relationship to pain and if they avoided seeking dental care from a dentist as a result. In response, the researches found the gene variant in 65 of 67 redheads and 20 of 77 people with darker hair color. After reviewing the data, the scientists found that those with the genes reported higher levels of dental anxiety and subsequently, higher levels of lack luster oral hygiene.
Pheomelanin is the pigment responsible for putting the red in hair and the relationship between occurrences and melanocortin-1 receptor were first unearthed in 1995. Jonathan Rees first identified the connection of the MC1R, located on the 16th of the 23 human chromosome pairs. Rees estimates that the first redheads appeared on earth approximately 50,000 years ago well after man started working with tools and fire.
The gene is cited for controlling the type of melanin being produced by redheads, and fair skin is another side effect of the naturally occurring mutation. Red hair can range in shades from burgundy, burnt orange and to bright copper and it is estimated that one to two percent of the entire human population has natural red hair (National Geographic).
Some biologists believe the mutation happened due by simple human evolution. All human life can be traced back to Africa courtesy of DNA. Scientists who have closely monitored the evolution of lice have discovered that humans first started to wear clothing 170,00 years ago (ScienceDaily.com). Once humans were able to dress themselves, they were able to migrate around the world courtesy of the warmth created by the primitive garb. Humans settled in all different regions, including areas featuring cold, dark climates. The fair skin coloring associated with red hair may have been and evolutionary adaptation as that shade of epidermis allowed humans to absorb more light, which warmed upped bodies and encouraged higher levels of vitamin D production.
Scotland is thought to be the hub of red haired folks that comprise more than 11 percent of the local population. While the hair color is primarily associated with Caucasians, the mutation can happen regardless of skin color. Both Malcolm X (nicknamed Detroit Red) and Redd Foxx (AKA Chicago Red) also had copper colored locks (Washington Post).
Because of their lower pain threshold, redheads may have a good reason for avoiding the dentist, however that can ultimately lead to more dental problems and pain because the demographic may try to avoid the dentist at all costs. That in turn will prevent individuals from getting valuable preventative dentistry.
Preventative dentistry is the simple act of daily brushing, flossing and getting regular dental exams and check ups. Regardless of hair color, seeking out professional dental care prior to any problem developing is the best way to ensure oral health and minimize the risk of pain associated with many dental treatments.
Redheads, blonds, brunettes, Manic Panic fans and even those shaved bald are all advised to seek professional dental care as a way to ensure their general well being. 1-800-DENTIST will make it easy for those in need to find a dentist as we do all the background research in relation to education, location, hours of operation and dental specialties so you won't have to.