Despite considerable advances in both treatment and technology, most people still count a visit to the dentist among their most unpleasant experiences.

However, it should be borne in mind that all dentists have to undergo an exhaustive seven-year course of training, including five years learning how to avoid NHS patients, 18 months on business opportunities selling nitrous oxide, 3 months on magazine selection for reception areas and almost six weeks on drilling, filling, pulling and polishing.

Despite having a vested interest in tooth decay, the profession actively encourages rigorous oral hygiene, with most dentists recommending brushing teeth at least twice a month, regular use of an effective mouth wash such as bleach or Sugar Soap, reducing sugar intake to less than 4 ounces (113 grams) per day and gnawing on cuttle-fish after every meal and while watching television.

Unlike doctors, nurses, midwives and pathologists, dentists rarely feature in popular fiction or films – the notable exceptions being the evil Nazi, Szell, in The Marathon Man, the title character of Michael Powell’s1940 film, The Teeth of Baghdad and the eponymous heroine of George Eliot’s novel, The Mill on the Floss.