When can my child start brushing alone? What type of toothbrush should I use and what's the easiest way to brush?

You need to help your child with toothbrushing at least once a day until she's eight years old. Younger children just don't have the manual dexterity to clean their teeth adequately by themselves. You can start cleaning first with a damp face cloth and a smear of Junior toothpaste. By one year, start using a small, soft toothbrush with an easy-to-hold handle. A variety of brightly coloured brushes is available from the supermarket or chemist. The easiest way to brush is to sit your child in your lap and brush from behind (the motions are then similar to brushing in your own mouth). Another easy way is to have your child lying on the floor or your lap so their head is supported and then brush and floss their teeth.The technique of brushing is not as important as doing a thorough job and cleaning properly. Brush all surfaces of the teeth, for five seconds each. Once your child reaches the independent stage, he may insist on doing his teeth himself. At this age, it's a good idea to make a game out of brushing and have a rule for "taking turns". First let him brush or suck on the toothbrush. This won't clean his teeth properly at all, but will let him feel involved. Then have your turn. Even if he closes his teeth together, you will still be able to clean the sides and front of his teeth. Perseverance is important. An electric toothbrush is also an option worth considering: it simplifies the toothbrushing process as it only needs to be held next to the tooth. When you are selecting one, look for a small head and soft bristles. One with a two-minute timer is good to prevent quick brushing! Avoid sharing brushes as this can spread cold and flu germs around the family. Start flossing teeth once two back teeth are touching (you can use floss holders to help, and a smear of toothpaste also helps deliver fluoride into this contact point). Floss holders are available from the supermarket, chemist or dentist.

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