People in the north west of England apparently feel more anxiety when waiting for a dental appointment than those anywhere else in the country.

A survey on behalf of solicitors the Dental Law Partnership says 94 per cent of respondents in the north west have experienced some of the classic signs of anxiety when waiting to see a dentist. This compares to 79 per cent in the calmest area: East Anglia.

Perhaps there’s an explanation which is unrelated to fear of dentists.

In Cumbria we’re well aware that the north west has plenty of hills. East Anglia is as flat as a snooker table.

If you arrive at the dentist short of breath with a dry mouth and a pounding heart, you may be a patient at Scafell Pike Dental Practice.

Other symptoms are also difficult to blame entirely on dentists. These include ‘Feeling restless, on edge or panicky’.

Doesn’t that describe everyone who watches the news?

Sweating is also listed as a symptom of dental nerves.

When I first read that, I thought it said ‘swearing’. It doesn’t really matter: that would have been equally accurate.

The NHS website offers tips for tackling dental anxiety. These include taking a friend or family member with you to your appointment.

Another is ‘agreeing a signal with your dentist that you need to take a break’.

How does that work? You can’t speak. The dentist is staring intently into your mouth. Your hands could be staging a Punch and Judy show and the dentist wouldn’t know about it.

The NHS doesn’t have a monopoly on tips for tackling dental anxiety. Another good one, at least in the short term, is ‘Don’t go to the dentist.’

At my junior school a friend used to pull out his classmates’ loose teeth. We’d close our eyes, he’d reach in, and the tooth was gone in a painless procedure.

At secondary school several students provided their own removal service, but with teeth which were not loose.

Why is a firm of solicitors conducting a survey about dentists? The press release about the survey includes a quote from Chris Dean of the Dental Law Partnership, which describes itself as ‘a specialist firm of dental negligence solicitors’.

He talks about the importance of visiting the dentist regularly and the good work of most dentists. He then mentions people who have had a bad experience, who “may even be able to claim compensation for what has happened to them.”

What do dentists have a fear of? No win, no fee solicitors.