Red hair and rotten teeth

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Genetic Variations Associated With Red Hair Color and Fear of Dental Pain, Anxiety Regarding Dental Care and Avoidance of Dental Care:

Background. Red hair color is caused by variants of the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene. People with naturally red hair are resistant to subcutaneous local anesthetics and, therefore, may experience increased anxiety regarding dental care. The authors tested the hypothesis that having natural red hair color, a MC1R gene variant or both could predict a patient’s experiencing dental care-related anxiety and dental care avoidance.

Methods. The authors enrolled 144 participants (67 natural red-haired and 77 dark-haired) aged 18 to 41 years in a cross-sectional observational study. Participants completed validated survey instruments designed to measure general and dental care-specific anxiety, fear of dental pain and previous dental care avoidance. The authors genotyped participants’ blood samples to detect variants associated with natural red hair color.

Results. Eighty-five participants had MC1R gene variants (65 of the 67 red-haired participants and 20 of the 77 dark-haired participants) (P < .001). Participants with MC1R gene variants reported significantly more dental care-related anxiety and fear of dental pain than did participants with no MC1R gene variants. They were more than twice as likely to avoid dental care as were the participants with no MC1R gene variants, even after the authors controlled for general trait anxiety and sex.



  1. No. Way. Finally it is revealed why the British have infamously bad teeth.

  2. scots and irish.

  3. That’s why Jessica Rabbit never smiles.

  4. I wonder if this is why dentists in the UK use anesthetics for just about everything. It seemed very odd for a nation whose health care is otherwise similar to that of the rest of Europe to use them so abundantly.

  5. I think the quality of teeth has more to do with diet and dentistry than genes (though genetically small jaws do lead to overcrowding). Attitudes in Britain are changing, and it is now common to see children, and even adults, with orthodontic braces. 
    But there is still resistance to Hollywood ideals of physical perfection, which lead to bland uniformity. So British actors, actresses, models, etc, are much less likely to have cosmetic surgery just to advance their career.

  6. Perhaps as a red-head,the fear of pain is an incentive to take better care of the teeth?

  7. In British hospitals there used to be special cots for red-head children because it was known that they tended to get anything worse than others, and to need attention. I don’t know if they still do this, or how widespread it was, but I once saw a picture of a cot set aside for red haired kids.

  8. I hope they end up collecting some data on actual dental health as well… it would be nice to be able to see just how big the effect of less frequent visits to the dentist is. 
    I think the quality of teeth has more to do with diet and dentistry 
    Thing is, dentistry seems most valuable once something has actually gone wrong. It seems like diet and genetics alone *can* give you excellent dental health – British sailors were frequently impressed by the dentition of the natives they encountered in places like Australia and Africa (their own dental health being very poor). See also the work of Weston Price, who did a good job of documenting the deterioration of people’s teeth as they adopted a modern diet.

  9. also the work of Weston Price, who did a good job of documenting the deterioration of people’s teeth as they adopted a modern diet. 
    I read Weston Price and his book is chock full of photos documenting how fast dental decline can be in a population–two siblings only a few years apart can have show decline in palate formation if the diet changes suddenly. The (usually) older one still living on the traditional diet had better teeth and palate than the younger living on jam and denatured processed foods.  
    While genes play their role (and darker races have greater bone density, therefore stronger teeth), The Europeans had great teeth when on their traditional diets. Skulls from the middle ages show this. They didn’t grow as tall but the bone structure was usually excellent. 
    It was well known in the Elizabethan court that excessive sugar “rotteth the teeth and maketh the breath stink.”