Red Headed Patients May Require More Anesthesia – Here's Why!

Recently, some TikTok videos and Instagram Reels have gone viral, claiming that red-headed people require more anesthesia. Is that really true? According to one study, it is! And in this blog from Lakeside Dental, we’ll be taking a look at this topic and explaining why redheads may need to be sedated more heavily during medical and dental procedures. Let’s get into it!

Where Did This Idea Start? Understanding The Research

The idea that redheads need more anesthesia comes from a study that was done in the early 2000s. In this study, the researchers studied a variety of women between the ages of 19-40 who had either dark hair or bright red hair. They administered a variety of anesthetics, and then measured how much painful stimulation was necessary to get a response.

Their findings showed that redheads required more anesthetic to block their movement and responses to pain, compared to women with dark hair. This lines up with anecdotal evidence from anesthesiologists and doctors, who claim that redheads need more anesthesia to “go under'' during treatments. But why does this happen?

Why Would Red-Headed Patients Need More Anesthesia? It’s Genetic!

We should be clear that one study alone can’t confirm whether or not redheads need more anesthesia. Very little research has been done on this, and larger trials would be needed to confirm this hypothesis. But if it is the case that redheads are more sensitive to pain and need more anesthesia, the cause is likely genetic.

Researchers theorize that the link is because of a receptor on certain cells that normally lend pigment to people’s skin and hair. In red-headed people, this receptor doesn’t function properly. In turn, a feedback mechanism increases the release of a certain type of hormone. This hormone would normally stimulate these cells and release the proper pigment.

But this same hormone also stimulates a brain receptor that increases pain sensitivity. That could explain why it seems that some red-headed people are more sensitive to pain, and require more anesthesia compared to people with darker hair and skin.

Don’t Worry – Being Redheaded Won’t Interfere With Dental Sedation 

It’s important to understand that being redheaded doesn’t really have any major effects on your sedation plan when you’re seeing a dentist or a doctor. Pain thresholds vary for a lot of reasons. Some patients are more sensitive to pain than others, and redheadedness, if it is a contributing factor, is only one among many including age, gender, lifestyle, mental health, and tons of others.

So if you’re a proud redhead and you’re about to get treatment at Lakeside Dental, don't worry. You’re in good hands with Dr. Joseph Blalock. He will develop a dental sedation plan that’s right for you based on your specific case, and ensure you feel no pain or discomfort during your treatment.

If you’re ready to get started, don’t wait. Contact us online or give us a call at 865-635-4999. Dr. Blalock specializes in sedation dentistry in Lenoir City, and is always here to help you get the treatment you need at Lakeside Dental.