Research Explains Source of Dental Phobia

Many people suffer from anxiety when visiting their dentist, and whether it’s fear of pain or simply the unknown, it’s difficult to pinpoint the root of the problem.  However, a group of researchers attempted to investigate deeper into the issue and found some pretty amazing results.  Would you believe that hair color can be an indicator of who has dental phobias? It’s true, as reported in the story, “Why redheads and dentists don’t get along,” by Emily Main.  The research was published in the Journal of the American Dental Association and identified a specific gene, that just so happens to occur most often in redheads, that can trigger heightened anxiety about dental work.

The study examined 144 participants, 67 of which were natural redheads and 77 who had dark hair.  Those who took part in the research were first asked to answer a series of questions about fears or anxieties when visiting the dentist, and then gave blood samples which were tested for specific gene variants commonly found in redheads.  From the results, researchers were able to conclude that those carrying the specific gene, MC1R, reported that they avoided the dentist because of fear and anxiety, twice as often as people without.  85 people in the study ended up with the MC1R gene, and 65 of them were redheads.  The study proposed that people carrying this gene can be resistant to some kinds of pain medications, leading researchers to conclude that redheads are more prone to negative experiences at the dentist due to increased levels of pain, leading to higher anxiety and fear of repeat visits.

While the study is no doubt fascinating, it doesn’t necessarily help in easing anxiety or fear about going to the dentist, regardless of hair color.  Several recent studies have linked oral health to other major medical conditions, making it that much more important to visit your dentist regularly.  Unfortunately, those paralyzed by fear, often skip these crucial visits, therefore potentially putting themselves at greater risk for more serious complications down the road.  But if you haven’t been to the dentist recently, Kimberly A. Harms, DDS, consumer advisor of the American Dental Association, says that you might be surprised if you can get yourself there again.  She claims that pain has become much more minimal thanks to effective anesthesia that is more commonly used.  Sedation dentistry has become a welcome relief for many as the practice helps calm the nerves and makes dental procedures virtually pain free.  And, it’s not just available to redheads, so there’s really no excuse.

Written by Mark Paulsort

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