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Does hair color really matter when it comes to the patient being able to get numb?

Have you heard this before? Especially with patients who are a natural red head?

In the late ‘60’s there was a study which indicated that the melanin differences in redheads impacted a portion of the central nervous system and therefore created a more challenging process to handle pain management. Well my friends, according to the 2015 study which was published in the January Canadian Anesthesiologist Society (CAS) Journal, debunks this idea.

The report reveals that hair color does not actually impact the pain receptors capability to be blocked by medications. The article said that while redheads might be more sensitive, the capability to achieve pain management was not statistically different than anybody else.

Plus, there was a study published by the Journal of Endodontia in December 2012, which found that red heads tend to have higher dental anxiety but their capability to get numb was just the same and required the same amount of anesthetic as everyone else.

While research say’s there isn’t a difference, anecdotal evidence may say otherwise. Several clinicians have indicated that when they have their red hair patients in the chair, they must give a little more anesthetic.

Does this mean we need to ask our patients if they color their hair? I can see it now, the next big question on the health history form. Well I am leaning towards the camp of the “let’s not go there” group.

As with most of our patients the best thing we can do is have proper techniques and create a calm environment to ease their anxiety. Talk with them to learn the best way to address their concerns. Less anxiety usually means a higher success rate for getting numb!

So, no matter your patient’s hair color focusing on your technique and addressing your patient’s anxiety will help you give your best shot.



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