Oral-B cleaning modes explained

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 1

Are you confused by the different brushing modes available on an Oral-B electric toothbrush?

Not sure what each mode means and how gum care differs to pro clean?

Do you even need these different modes?

You are not alone.  Many others have this same issue.

I was once as confused as you are probably feeling right now too.

And to be honest, Oral-B don’t make it clear.

In this article, I will explain what the different cleaning modes are and what they can do for you.

There’s also a handy comparison chart further down the page showing you which brushes have which cleaning modes.

Explanation Video

Sometimes it’s just easier to explain things in person, so I have put together this video that runs through the cleaning modes and their differences.

Oral-B Cleaning/Brushing Modes Explained

How important are the different cleaning modes?

One of the most common questions we receive and the short answer here is that they are not that important.

For the vast majority of us, a single cleaning mode, the standard Daily Clean mode is perfectly sufficient.

It is better to have a toothbrush with 1 cleaning mode that you use regularly, for the correct amount of time and with the correct technique than it is having a brush with multiple modes you use incorrectly.

The biggest health benefits will come from regular use with the correct technique.

Extra modes can potentially provide benefit for some people, particularly those with an oral healthcare goal in mind.

The Sensitive mode is typically one of the most appealing and useful alternative modes as it is a little more gentle on the teeth and gums, yet still cleans well.

The evidence that extra modes are required or provide significant benefit is limited.

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 2

What are the cleaning modes available on Oral-B toothbrushes?

There are up to 8 different brushing modes available on Oral-B electric brushes.

How many modes and which modes depends on which brush you own or are planning to buy or already own.

Quite often, the more expensive the brush or the higher the model number, the more modes it has.

The Oral-B iO Series 9 has the most cleaning modes of any brush, with 7 in total.

The 8 modes are:

  1. Daily Clean
  2. Gum Care (Also referred to as Massage)
  3. Sensitive
  4. Super Sensitive
  5. Whitening/Whiten
  6. Pro Clean (Previously Deep Clean)
  7. Intense
  8. Tongue Clean
brushing teeth with electric toothbrush

The Oral-B iO series changes things

In the summer of 2020 Oral-B introduced the iO Series electric toothbrush.

This brush has been entirely redesigned and uses a different motor within the handle in comparison to most other Oral-B electric toothbrushes.

It has a friction-less magnetic motor.

Fundamentally this still allows the iO series to clean the teeth as well as any other model. But, the way the brush head delivers the movements is slightly different. The way the cleaning action is measured is significantly different too.

The brush head still has an oscillating, rotating and pulsating action, however rather than being measured by a number of movements per minute it is now measures based on the oscillation angle.

Within the article, I will aim to make it as clear as possible how the iO Series differs, but it is important to be aware that differences do exist.

What does each brushing mode do?

Daily Clean

  • This is the standard mode for daily mouth cleaning to remove plaque and maintain oral health.
  • The cleaning cycle lasts for 2 minutes.
  • The principle is that you spend 30 seconds for each quadrant of the mouth (upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left).
  • Almost all Oral-B brushes have a timer built-in which will give an audible tone via a pause in the brushing at 30 second intervals and then at the end of the 2 minute cycle.
    • Vitality/Pro/Smart/Genius Series
      • 8,800-10,500 oscillations and 20,000-45,000 pulsations (subject to model – see power delivery).
      • The Cross Action, Sensi UltraThin, FlossAction, TriZone and Precision Clean brush heads are most suitable for this cleaning mode.
    • iO Series
      • Oscillation angle of 28° (+/- 5°) and a frequency of 145Hz.
      • The Ultimate Clean brush head is best suited to this mode.

Gum Care (Also known as Massage)

  • Suitable for those with sore or inflamed and even bleeding gums.
  • It offers a gentle massage of gums to stimulate blood flow and strengthen and nurture the gum tissue.
  • The cleaning cycle lasts for 2 minutes.
  • The principle is that you spend 30 seconds for each quadrant of the mouth (upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left).
  • Almost all Oral-B brushes have a timer built-in which will give an audible tone via a pause in the brushing at 30 second intervals and then at the end of the 2 minute cycle.
    • Vitality/Pro/Smart/Genius Series
      • 2,600-9,900 oscillations and 12,000-45,000 pulsations (subject to model – see power delivery).
      • The Cross Action, Sensi UltraThin, FlossAction, TriZone and Precision Clean brush heads are most suitable for this cleaning mode.
    • iO Series
      • A sweeping oscillation angle of 14-28° (+/- 5°) over 100 milliseconds and a frequency of 145Hz.
      • The Gentle Care brush head is best suited to this mode.

Sensitive

  • A slower speed mode for a gentler brushing experience but still providing a thorough clean.
  • This mode is often recommended by some dentists as a better option than the Daily Clean as it is not so powerful.
  • The cleaning cycle lasts for 2 minutes.
  • The principle is that you spend 30 seconds for each quadrant of the mouth (upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left).
  • Almost all Oral-B brushes have a timer built-in which will give an audible tone via a pause in the brushing at 30 second intervals and then at the end of the 2 minute cycle.
    • Vitality/Pro/Smart/Genius Series
      • 6,500-7,400 oscillations and 30,000-33,000 pulsations (subject to model – see power delivery).
      • The Sensi UltraThin brush head is most suitable for this cleaning mode.
    • iO Series
      • Oscillation angle of 20° (+/- 5°) and a frequency of 145Hz.
      • The Gentle Care brush head is best suited to this mode.

Super Sensitive

  • Exclusive to the iO Series.
  • The slowest speed for the gentles brushing experience.
  • Ideal for those who are new to electric toothbrushes or have sensitive mouths.
  • The cleaning cycle lasts for 2 minutes.
  • The principle is that you spend 30 seconds for each quadrant of the mouth (upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left).
  • Almost all Oral-B brushes have a timer built-in which will give an audible tone via a pause in the brushing at 30 second intervals and then at the end of the 2 minute cycle.
    • iO Series
      • Oscillation angle of 15° (+/- 5°) and a frequency of 145Hz.
      • The Gentle Care brush head is best suited to this mode.
Oral-B cleaning modes explained 3

Whitening/Whiten

  • Aims to polish teeth to give that dentist clean look and feel for brighter teeth by removing surface stains.
  • Suitable as an occasional or everyday cleaning mode.
  • The cleaning cycle lasts for 2 minutes and 20 seconds normally or 2 minutes on the iO Series.
  • The first 2 minutes are for completing the normal cleaning and the additional 20 seconds for focusing on the front teeth.
  • Almost all Oral-B brushes have a timer built-in which will give an audible tone via a pause in the brushing at 30 second intervals and then at the end of the 2 minute and 20 second cycle.
    • Vitality/Pro/Smart/Genius Series
      • 6,100-9,900 oscillations and 28,000-45,000 pulsations (subject to model – see power delivery).
      • The 3D White brush head is most suitable for this cleaning mode.
    • iO Series
      • A sweeping oscillation angle of 16-33° (+/- 5°) over 1800 milliseconds and a frequency of 145Hz.
      • The Ultimate Clean brush head is best suited to this mode.

Pro Clean (Previously Deep Clean)

  • Exclusive to the Vitality/Pro/Smart/Genius Series. Not available on the iO Series.
  • This is cleaning mode is the same as the Daily Clean but pre-programmed to last for longer.
  • The cleaning cycle lasts for 3 minutes.
  • The principle is that you spend 45 seconds for each quadrant of the mouth (upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left) compared to the standard 2 minute clean and 30 second intervals.
  • Almost all Oral-B brushes have a timer built-in which will give an audible tone via a pause in the brushing at 45 second intervals and then at the end of the 3 minute cycle.
    • Vitality/Pro/Smart/Genius Series
      • 8,800-10,500 oscillations and 40,000-48,000 pulsations (subject to model – see power delivery).
      • The Cross Action, FlossAction, TriZone or Precision Clean brush heads are most suitable for this cleaning mode.

Intense

  • Exclusive to the iO Series.
  • Cleaning mode for enhanced cleaning results.
  • The cleaning cycle lasts for 2 minutes.
  • The principle is that you spend 30 seconds for each quadrant of the mouth (upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left).
  • Almost all Oral-B brushes have a timer built-in which will give an audible tone via a pause in the brushing at 30 second intervals and then at the end of the 3 minute cycle.
    • iO Series
      • Oscillation angle of 33° (+/- 5°) and a frequency of 145Hz.
      • The Ultimate Clean brush head is best suited to this mode.

Tongue Clean

  • Used for cleaning the tongue or inside of the cheeks after brushing.
  • More gentle than a conventional cleaning mode.
  • Suitable for daily or occasional use.
  • The cleaning lasts for 20 seconds or 30 seconds on the iO Series.
    • Vitality/Pro/Smart/Genius Series
      • 7,300-8,200 oscillations and 30,000-33,000 pulsations (subject to model – see power delivery).
      • The Sensi UltraThin brush head is advisable for this mode.
    • iO Series
      • Oscillation angle of 15° (+/- 5°) and a frequency of 145Hz.
      • The Gentle Care brush head is best suited to this mode.

This hopefully helps explains what each modes means and how exactly the brushing modes differ.

The following table helps compare the modes a little further and also lists, which models offer which brushing mode. Click the table to enlarge.

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 4

Two minute timer and quadpacer (professional timer)

The dentist recommended cleaning time for your teeth is 2 minutes, or 120 seconds.

Brushing modes, Daily Clean, Gum Care and Sensitive are programmed by run for this length of time.

From the moment the brush is turned on, a built-in timer is activated.

At the end of the 2 minute cleaning cycle, the motor in the brush pauses and restarts briefly three times.

This pausing of the brush motor causes the brushing sensation to change as well as the sound of the brush.

This is your signal that the 2 minutes of brushing time has been achieved.

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 5

Normally at this point you would turn the toothbrush off, by holding the power button for 1-2 seconds.  You can continue to brush the teeth if you prefer.  The brush will not automatically turn itself off.

Pro Clean, and Whitening modes last longer than 2 minutes and the Tongue cleaning mode is shorter than this at just 20 seconds.

The same pausing action happens at the end of the programmed cleaning cycle time.

Although not present in all electric toothbrushes Oral-B manufacture, the vast majority have what Oral-B call a professional timer.

Also known as the quadpacer or 30 second timer, this is an additional feature which assists in the brushing routine.

During a 2 minute cleaning cycle, there are four periods of 30 seconds.  The idea behind the pacer is that you spend 30 seconds brushing each quadrant of the mouth.

Imagine breaking the mouth up into four sections, upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left.

If you spend 30 seconds cleaning the surfaces of the teeth in each quadrant, by the end of the 2 minutes, you will have brushes evenly around the mouth.

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 6

The professional timer/quadpacer helps you achieve this.

At 30 second intervals, there is a brief pause of the motor before it restarts again.

Like the 2 minute timer, this causes a change in the brushing sensation and the sound of the brush and is the alert you need to change from one quadrant to another.

If you have a Bluetooth enable toothbrush, the app will give visual representation of this timer and pacer feature on screen in real time.

With some models of toothbrush, you can turn this professional timer off and leave just the 2 minute timer enabled.  You will need to refer to the instructions for your Oral-B toothbrush for directions.

It is not normally possible to turn the standard toothbrush timer off, that runs for 2 minutes.

However, timers and settings can vary from 1 brush to another.

On the iO Series all cleaning modes, with the exception of the Tongue Clean last for just 2 minutes.

Those smart or Bluetooth connected brushes often have the option to change the length of the brushing time for each mode. This is usually set from within the smartphone application. There is the choice to customise the clean to suit your needs.

Power delivery – The number of oscillations, rotations and pulsations

As you may be aware, the small round brush heads from Oral-B move side to side in a circular motion.  They have what is known as an oscillating-rotating cleaning action, as shown in this image.

The brush head moves thousands of times per minute.

The number of times the brush head oscillates does depend on the model of toothbrush you are using.

The vast majority of models, the Vitality series being the main exception, also have a third type of movement called pulsations.

The number of oscillations and pulsations of each Oral-B toothbrush can vary. Typically the more premium the model the higher the number.

The oscillations and pulsations for the Oral-B range are listed below:

  • Stages Power Kids
    • Oscillations: 7,600
    • Pulsations: 0
  • Vitality
    • Oscillations: 7,800
    • Pulsations: 0
  • Pro 100
    • Oscillations: 7,800
    • Pulsations: 0
Oral-B cleaning modes explained 7
  • Pro 500
    • Oscillations: 8,800
    • Pulsations: 20,000
  • Pro 700
    • Oscillations: 8,800
    • Pulsations: 20,000
  • Pro 800
    • Oscillations: 8,800
    • Pulsations: 20,000
  • Pro 2 2000
    • Oscillations: 9,900
    • Pulsations: 45,000
  • Pro 3000
    • Oscillations: 9,900
    • Pulsations: 45,000
  • Smart 4 4000
    • Oscillations: 9,900
    • Pulsations: 45,000
Oral-B cleaning modes explained 8
  • Smart 5 5000
    • Oscillations: 10,500
    • Pulsations: 48,000
  • Smart 7 7000
    • Oscillations: 10,500
    • Pulsations: 48,000
  • Genius 8000
    • Oscillations: 10,500
    • Pulsations: 48,000
Oral-B cleaning modes explained 9
  • Genius 9000
    • Oscillations: 10,500
    • Pulsations: 48,000
  • Genius AI
    • Oscillations: 10,500
    • Pulsations: 48,000

With the introduction of the Oral-B iO Series comes a new way to measure the movements of the brush head.

Oral-B still has an osicllating and rotating brush head movement, but the third clenaing dimension most typically referred to as pulsations is now known as micro vibrations.

This is different because of the alternative type of motor used in these brushes.

Oral-B themselves have stated to us:

We are moving away from articulating the benefits of the technology from number of movements because the benefits we see with Oral-B iO come from a multitude of factors including the linear magnetic drive that delivers energy to the bristle tips, the increased density of filaments on our redesigned brush heads as well the synchronised cleaning action of oscillation rotation plus microvibrations. The different brushing modes and movements are differentiated by the oscillation angle (ie the distance that each bristle travels before it changes direction).

Boris Atlas – Global Leader for Professional and Scientific Relations – Oral-B.

What this means is that the angle of the bristles on the brush head are anywhere between 15-33° and the frequency of micro vibrations are set at 145Hz.

Irrespective of the toothbrush you are using, don’t be too worried about the number of oscillations, rotations and pulsations. Any electric toothbrush should clean the teeth better than a manual brush, when used correctly.

You don’t need to own the most powerful model. 

Just cleaning your teeth regularly and with the correct technique is a big step forward in ensuring healthy teeth.

Keeping a regular brushing routine is more useful than having a powerful brush. However, the theory is, the more movements of each, the better the brush can clean the teeth.

You should be aware though, that different cleaning modes use a different number of movements.  This means, that you could have the technically most powerful brush, but if you use the sensitive brushing mode, you will not be using the full power of the toothbrush.

Do I need to use special brush heads?

No, you do not necessarily need special brush heads.

But, Oral-B do offer specialised brush heads, which are designed and suited for particular cleaning modes.

You can use the standard CrossAction head for all cleaning modes, but the 3D White brush head is more effective when used with the Whitening mode for example.

My comprehensive guide to Oral-B brush heads, complete with video, explains this in more detail.

The choice is of course yours but it is advised to use the appropriate head to gain the maximum effect from each cleaning mode.

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 10

How do I change the brushing mode on my Oral-B toothbrush?

If your Oral-B toothbrush has only 1 cleaning mode, you cannot change it.  This is the only option you have.

If you brush has multiple cleaning modes, the way you change the mode depends on the model.

With the Pro and Smart brush handles, you have to press the power button to change the cleaning mode.

With the SmartSeries and Genius range, you press the separate cleaning mode button (a downwards arrow) to change the mode.

You can only change the brushing mode selected after you have pressed the power button to turn the brush on.

On the iO Series you press the cleaning mode button, under the display on the brush handle. You can change the mode prior to turning the brush on.

The brush will default to the standard daily clean mode upon being switched on, unless you have a Genius or iO Series model, where it will use the mode previously selected on the handle.

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 11

Cleaning mode icons

With most Oral-B electric toothbrushes, it is not very easy to tell which cleaning mode you have selected.

The Teen, Pro and and Smart range of handles offer no icons or labels on the brush handle to show what mode you have activated.

You can only know what mode you have selected, by remembering the sequence of modes on that brush.

The modes available and their sequence is listed in the user guide.

With the Smart range of brushes, that have Bluetooth connectivity, if you are using the smartphone at the same time, the mode selected will be shown on screen.

If you are using one of the Genius series brush handles, then there are icons on the handle of the brush.

Each icon will be lit with a white light as that mode is selected.

Sadly, Oral-B does not use the name of the mode, you need to remember what the icon is, to know what mode you have selected.

The cleaning mode icons are shown in the following image.

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 12

Whilst some seem obvious others are not.

When the default, Daily Clean mode is selected or active, no icons light up.  There is no icon for this mode on the brush handle.

The icon with a tooth and a plus (+) icon is the Deep Clean/Pro Clean mode.

The icon of a feather is the sensitive cleaning mode.

The icon of a diamond is the whitening brushing mode.

The icon consisting of 3 wavy lines is the massage mode.

The icon of the tongue is the tongue cleaning mode.

Some brushes have, or work with a Smart Wireless Guide.  This guide is a small unit with a display that shows the brushing time and also shows the cleaning mode icons to help identify the cleaning mode in use.

The following image shows what the icons will look like on the smart wireless guide, they are the same icons found on the Genius brush handle.

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 13

This has been addressed in the range topping iO Series, which displays via the screen on the brush handle which mode is selected.

Rather than relying on just an icon, it does offer the text with the icon so you can quickly know precisely which mode is selected.

Which brushes have which cleaning modes?

To make it easy to find brushes with a particular cleaning mode we have compiled the lists below, complete with a link to our review.

To avoid repetition, I have only linked to the review/where to buy the first time it is mentioned.

Which brushes have daily clean mode?

This cleaning mode applies to the following Oral-B models:

Which brushes have gum care mode?

This cleaning mode applies to the following Oral-B models:

  • Smart 5 5000
  • Smart 7 7000
  • Genius 8000
  • Genius 9000
  • Genius AI
  • iO Series 7
  • iO Series 8
  • iO Series 9

Which brushes have sensitive mode?

This cleaning mode applies to the following Oral-B models:

  • Pro 2 2000
  • Pro 3000
  • Smart 4 4000
  • Smart 5 5000
  • Smart 7 7000
  • Genius 8000
  • Genius 9000
  • Genius AI
  • iO Series 7
  • iO Series 8
  • iO Series 9

Which brushes have super sensitive mode?

This cleaning mode applies to the following Oral-B models:

  • iO Series 8
  • iO Series 9

Which brushes have whitening mode?

This cleaning mode applies to the following Oral-B models:

  • Pro 3000
  • Smart 4 4000
  • Smart 5 5000
  • Smart 7 7000
  • Genius 8000
  • Genius 9000
  • Genius AI
  • iO Series 7
  • iO Series 8
  • iO Series 9

Which brushes have deep clean mode?

This cleaning mode applies to the following Oral-B models:

  • Smart 5 5000
  • Smart 7 7000
  • Genius 8000
  • Genius 9000
  • Genius AI

Which brushes have intense mode?

This cleaning mode applies to the following Oral-B models:

  • iO Series 7
  • iO Series 8
  • iO Series 9

Which brushes have tongue cleaning mode?

This cleaning mode applies to the following Oral-B models:

  • Genius 9000
  • Genius AI
  • iO Series 9

How can I compare the Oral-B electric toothbrushes?

The following Oral-B electric toothbrush comparison chart shows the main brushes available and how they compare.  You can see which brushing modes each toothbrush has as well as checking whether or not it has a two minute timer and pacer.

Click the comparison table below to enlarge.

Oral-B cleaning modes explained 14

We hope this post help answer the questions you may have had about cleaning modes.

Your comments

Do you like or make use of particular modes on your Oral-B toothbrush?

Have you got something you want to share with others about the modes and the way they work?

Perhaps you have a question that I have not answered.

Leave a comment or question below.

About Jon Love

Jon is a leading voice on electric toothbrushes and has been quoted by mainstream media publications for his opinions and expertise.

Having handled & tested hundreds of products there really is very little he does not know about them.

Passionate about business and helping others, Jon has been involved in various online enterprises since the early 2000s.

After spending 12 years in consumer technology, it was in 2014 that he focused his attention on dental health, having experienced first-hand the challenge of choosing a new toothbrush.

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