A YORK-BORN servicewoman has been preparing troops for conflict in Iraq - by checking the health of their teeth.

Jane Nottingham, 46, has just become the first female dentist in the RAF to be promoted to the rank of Group Captain and she is also the only RAF officer to be based permanently with the Royal Navy at HM Naval Base Clyde, at Faslane, near Glasgow.

As principal dental officer (Scotland) she is responsible for supervising the provision of dental care for all military dental centres throughout Scotland, caring for 13,500 military personnel.

The former Bar Convent Grammar School student, whose mother, Anne, still lives in York, was inspired to join the RAF by her late father, George, who served in the RAF throughout the Second World War as a radio operator.

She said it was vital that full-time, part-time and volunteer servicemen had regular dental checks, whether they were working at home or in the Gulf.

Group Captain Nottingham said: "I'm not in line to go out (to Iraq), but I obviously closely monitor the provision of medical care for all three services in Scotland and some of them have been shipped over.

"There's been a lot of work over Christmas and up to now in preparing squadrons and troops and battalions that have left for the conflict and we have also been involved with the TA and volunteer services.

"There's been a thriving dental branch in the RAF since the 1930s and there's a long history of dental problems having a severe impact on military campaigns.

"Toothache may not have the glamour of cancer or other illnesses, but if you are stuck in a trench with toothache you can't concentrate and you are a dangerous man with a weapon."

Group Captain Nottingham said servicemen and women involved with Operation Fresco, part of the ongoing firemen's dispute, were also treated by her team.

She said: "Things don't stop at home when there is a war on."