Creating Healthy Smiles, One Smile At A Time

Monthly Archives: November 2013


“While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” ― Mark Twain


It’s a well known fact in the dental world that individuals with red hair tend to have a difficult time at the dentist.   Our resident redhead, Kris,  can confirm that this is not an urban legend.  When in the rare instance that she needs lidocaine (local anesthesia), she is sure to tell us that she needs ‘A LOT’. 

Research has  shown that  people with red hair tend to be particularly nervous about dental procedures, and as a result are twice as likely to avoid going to the dentist as blondes, brunettes and black haired individuals.  Part of this nervousness arises around the challenges of getting numb, which often leads to the need for multiple shots of lidocaine.  An unpleasant proposition for anyone.Kris 3

Red hair is caused by a mutation on chromosome 16 that affects the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) protein, leading to redhead’s characteristic pale skin, light eyes and the need for slathering on the sunblock. 

The MC1R gene also belongs to a family of receptors that include pain receptors in the brain, and as a result, a change in this gene changes the body’s sensitivity to pain.  Hence, redheads need about 20% more general anesthesia than people with dark or blond coloring, and have heightened resistance to local anesthesia (lidocaine).  This leads to the unpleasant situation of requiring multiple shots to get comfortably numb.

Now, those of us with brown or black hair, are not necessarily spared the wrath of this mutation.  About 25% of those with darker hair have a variant of the MC1R gene, and like their redhead brethren similarly share their anxiety of the dentist.  Furthermore, while the gene for red hair is recessive (ie. both parents must carry it in order for there to be a chance of having a red-haired child), 80% of the global population carries the redheaded gene albeit invisibly.  

At the genetic level at least, we’re almost all red heads! 







Quite unlike my last post which proved to be a fraud, this latest real offering features a fascinating new product which will most assuredly make flossing fun for your child.

We make a big deal at our preventive care visits to stress the importance of flossing on a daily basis.  Not only can children get cavities in between their teeth, but because baby teeth are much smaller, and have a thin outer layer of protective enamel, these cavities can get very large very quickly.  Whereas a cavity in a permanent tooth can take years before it becomes a problem, in baby teeth, cavities can go from tiny to huge in a matter of months.

imagesWhen baby teeth first grow in, there tend to be quite a bit of spacing between the teeth and so for the most part, flossing is not as crucial.  However, for children as young as age three, the spaces between the back molars can close, and like adults, food can get trapped between the teeth, and if not cleaned or flossed out, can lead to cavities.

Most young children do not have the hand-eye coordination to floss, and need assistance when it comes to flossing. One of the issues that arises is that if a parent is to help, one has to get around the small mouth-large fingers conundrum. We agree that it is hard to floss your child’s teeth the old fashioned way so we usually recommend using floss holders.

GumChucks are a new entry to the marketplace. They resemble miniature nun-chucks and feature disposable tips that are equipped with 3/4 inch piece of dental floss.  The developers of GumChucks recognize the challenges of flossing, primarily that it’s really not fun, and is hard for young children.

kid-img1They have tried to address the ‘fun’ issue by appealing directly to children through iPad/iPhone applications (the all important GumChucks “Weapons of Plaques Destruction” game), trading cards, coloring books, requisite facebook page, t-shirts and colorful, fun design of the GumChucks themselves.  The design of the GumChucks makes sense as the large handles are helpful to both parent and child and make flossing a cinch.

plaqueman-ninja-kidsCurrently, it looks like you can only purchase their product online.  While the cost of GumChucks would not fall under the category of “A Good Value” since you will have to purchase floss tip refills (kind of reminds us of the cost of disposable razor blades), it does make sense for parents who need some help in motivating their children to floss.

A big thanks to Jill Lasky, D.D.S, a fantastic pediatric dentist out in Los Angeles (and who attended the same pediatric dentistry program as yours truly at Childrens Hospital Boston) who alerted me to GumChucks!

Oops, almost forgot…. a few links for those of you who need more information!

For our instructional video on flossing:

For Gumchucks:

And finally, for the crazy things we do on Halloween: