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Medically Reviewed
Published: June 6, 2024

Philips Sonicare brushing modes explained

Author: Jon Love (1 Comments)
Medical reviewer: Dr Gemma Wheeler, BDS
Various backlit mode icons on a Sonicare brush handle.

There are up to 6 different cleaning modes available on Sonicare toothbrushes

The vast majority of Sonicare toothbrushes have 1, 2, or 3 brushing modes. The exact number depends on the model. There are up to 6 different modes available for the company to enable on models. 5 is the maximum number of modes on current Sonicare brushes.

The following chart lists the different modes, their purpose and run time.

ModeWhat it doesCleaning time*
CleanAn everyday brushing option. Provides a great overall teeth cleaning to remove plaque and maintain oral health.2 minutes
White/White+Works harder to remove surface stains, whilst providing a great overall clean. After a 2 minute clean with alternating power, you have an extra 30 to focus on polishing your front teeth.2 minutes 30 seconds
Deep Clean/Deep Clean+The most powerful mode for the most thorough deep and powerful clean. It's ideal for when you want to pay extra attention to specific areas of the mouth.3 minutes
Gum Health/Gum CareGeneral overall teeth cleaning with an additional 1 minute of reduced power brushing. Designed to be used to gentle massage the gums for better circulation and gum health.3 minutes
SensitiveA gentle and less intense cleaning action ideally suited to new electric toothbrush users or those with sensitive teeth and gums.2 minutes
Tongue CareUsed for cleaning the tongue or inside of the cheeks.20 seconds
*Exact running time can vary by model & is impacted by whether the Sonicare brush has an active connection to the smartphone app.

Polish, Refresh and Massage are modes previously offered on older models. They are no longer current and these modes won't be found on current Sonicare brush handles.

3 close up images of cleaning mode labels on various brush handles.

Some models have different brushing intensities

On many Sonicare brush handles it's possible to change the intensity of the brushing motion.

Depending on the model this can vary between 2 or 3 different power intensity settings.

This option to change intensity acts like an additional cleaning mode.

It's quite common on more affordable models to have 1 cleaning mode and 2 intensities. You can almost think of these like a clean and sensitive mode, even if technically, the lower intensity option isn't labelled as such.

A brush with 3 cleaning modes and 3 intensities, essentially gives the user 9 different brushing mode configurations to choose between.

Those same models will typically have an LED indicator to help show what intensity has been selected.

  • Low: 1 LED indicator light.
  • Medium: 2 LED indicator lights.
  • High: 3 LED indicator lights.
Philips Sonicare brushing modes explained 1

How important are the different cleaning modes?

1 or 2 modes (or intensities) are normally more than sufficient for most users.

Our recommendation is a brush with Clean and Sensitive modes (or a high and low intensity). This gives the option of a powerful and effective everyday mode and a slower more gentle option for when your teeth and gums feel a little more delicate.

Having more modes or brushing intensities gives more choice and does allow you to find the optimum setup for you. However, with limited differences between modes, it is generally more important to focus on your toothbrushing technique, duration, and frequency than worry about the specific mode you use.

Cleaning mode labels on Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart.

We have not seen any clinical evidence or results from our hands-on testing that would suggest the use of any one mode is going to bring significant benefits.

Using a whitening mode may result in slightly brighter and whiter teeth more quickly than if using the standard clean brushing mode. A new electric toothbrush user who smokes and drinks lots of curry and red wine will likely see some better results than a non-smoker with limited red wine consumption. However, it is no guarantee.

Video explanation

The following video gives an overview of the main brushing modes available on Oral-B brushes.

Philips Sonicare brushing modes explained 2

What each cleaning mode does


  • This is the 'go to' mode for daily teeth cleaning for most users.
  • It provides a great overall teeth cleaning removing plaque to maintain oral health.
  • The cleaning cycle lasts for 2 minutes.


  • Aimed at those looking to remove staining and discoloration from the tooth surface.
  • The cleaning mode lasts for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
  • During the first 2 minutes you have a standard, the brush alternates the speed of the motor from a low to high power as you complete regular brushing.
  • The additional 30 seconds is offered to focus brushing on polishing the outer surface of the front upper and lower teeth.
  • The polishing motion used in the last 30 seconds of this mode will feel and sound different from the first 2 minutes.
  • Some models refer to this mode as just White, whilst on others it is labelled as White+.  It is the same cleaning action, just with a different name.

Deep Clean/Deep Clean+

  • The most powerful mode for the most thorough deep cleaning. It's ideally suited to those who want to give extra attention to specific areas of the mouth.
  • The motion and speed is adjusted to massage the teeth and gum tissues and push the cleaning motion through bacteria and stubborn stains that may exist
  • The cleaning mode usually lasts for 3 minutes.
  • If the brush handle has Bluetooth connectivity and is connected to a smartphone the mode will last for just 2 minutes.  If there is no active Bluetooth connection, the mode will run for 3 minutes.
  • Some models refer to this mode as just Deep Clean, whilst on others, it is labelled as Deep Clean+.  It is the same cleaning action, just with a different name.
3 close up images of cleaning mode labels on various brush handles.

Gum Health/Gum Care

  • Great for those wanting to give extra attention to improving their gum health. You may benefit if you have mild sensitivity in your gums, with occasional bleeding. It's a good option for those with or recovering from gum disease treatment.
  • The cleaning mode usually lasts for 3 minutes.
  • During the first 2 minutes, the brush runs the standard clean mode.
  • The remaining minute uses a slower and less powerful sensitive/massage mode to stimulate and massage the gums, to improve blood flow and overall gum health.
  • On some models, notably DiamondClean Smart & Prestige, the mode runs for an additional 20 seconds.
  • Some models refer to this mode as just Gum Health, whilst on others it is labelled as Gum Care.  It is the same cleaning action, just with a different name.


  • A gentle and less intense cleaning action ideally suited to new electric toothbrush users or those with sensitive teeth and gums.
  • This cleaning mode lasts for 2 minutes.
  • It uses less of the brush motors power to be more gentle on the teeth and gums.

Tongue Care

  • Designed to provide adequate time to brush the tongue and inside cheek surfaces.
  • This cleaning mode lasts for 20 seconds.

How to change brushing modes

There are two main ways to switch between brushing modes. The method depends on which brush you have.

For those brushes with only a power button on the handle, press it multiple times to cycle through the available modes. You can only change the mode once the brush is powered on. In most cases, you are going to be offered no more than 2 modes.

Many Sonicare handles have a second button, under the power button. This mode button can be used to switch between the modes. In many instances, the mode can be changed without powering the brush on, but this doesn't always apply.

That mode button may also change the brushing intensity if your handle has such an option.

It varies by model, but when the brush is off the mode button may allow you to change modes and then change intensity when the brush is powered on.

In other, but fewer instances, the power button might be used for mode selection and the mode button for brushing intensity.

As the modes are selected, the labels on the brush handle are normally illuminated so you can easily see what mode is active.

Philips Sonicare brushing modes explained 3

BrushSync head and handles may change the brushing mode automatically

Our BrushSync article explains it in more detail. But, if you attach a particular brush head to a particular (compatible) handle, the brushing mode and intensity will be altered without your input.

Fitting a W3 Premium White brush head will select White mode for example.

This is so that the head and brush deliver the best brushing combination. These selections can be overridden if you prefer.

Cleaning mode power: the number of brush strokes and movements

The bristles on a Sonicare toothbrush head move side to side, many thousand times a minute. This mechanical action disrupts the plaque as the bristles move over the tooth and gum surface. The bristles are sweeping and scrubbing the bacteria away.

In addition, the intense sonic vibrations generated by the motor agitate fluids in the mouth to create microbubbles. These come into contact with and loosen plaque and bacteria in locations that are beyond the physical touch of the toothbrush.

In theory, the more speed the motor has the more effective the clean is, because the bristles move more frequently over the tooth and gum surfaces. However, it is not all about speed, brushing technique, time and frequency has a big part to play too.

The vast majority of Sonicare models offer 31,000 brush strokes and 62,000 movements. There are some exceptions to this though.

A line up of Sonicare electric toothbrushes stood next to each other.
6 different models with different button and cleaning mode label configurations

31,000 brush strokes/62,000 movements

31,000 brush strokes and 62,000 movements are 2 figures Philips uses widely in their specification list for each toothbrush.

For a long time, it was only 31,000 brush strokes that were displayed. In more recent times, 62,000 movements has been used far more frequently. 62,000 sounds better than 31,000 doesn’t it?

I wouldn’t blame you for thinking it was better and maybe a newer technology. But, it's not.

As we understand it, they are essentially the same thing. 1 brush stroke is equal to 2 movements. (31,000 x 2 = 62,000).

But, there is a bit of a catch.

Some newer brushes, such as the 1100, 2100, 3100 and 4100 Series are listed wit no mention of brush strokes or movements. This is because the motors are configured differently.

Sonicare won't share the technical explanation, but premium Sonicare models are programmed with an extra dimension to the brushing experience that allows the 62,000 movements to be achieved, whereas these more affordable models don't.

As a result, certain models, do give a brushing sensation that feels less intense compared to some other Sonicare toothbrushes. Use the 1100 Series right after the DiamondClean Smart and you can feel the difference if paying close attention. It isn’t immediately obvious to all.

The brushing sensation might well be different, but we have not seen and significant difference in cleaning results in our testing. All Sonicare models do a very good job of removing harmful plaque from the teeth.

It is easy to get led by the numbers. They may have a bearing, but it isn't as significant as some might suggest.

Power delivery and cleaning modes

It is clear from our testing that the 'power' of the brush differs, depending on what mode you have selected.

That 'power' is made up of 2 different variables, amplitude and frequency.

  • Amplitude - is the maximum distance covered (or the sweep angle) by the toothbrush bristles during their cycle of movement. This is usually defined in terms of mm (distance) or degrees (angle).
  • Frequency - is defined as the number of cycles the power toothbrush bristles move within a unit of time (i.e. 1 Hz: 120 strokes per minute)

Sonicare themselves acknowledge that each brushing mode is configured differently.

Where the Deep Clean might offer the full 31,000 brush strokes and 62,000 movements (if the handle has such), Sensitive mode feels like the number of movements is less. How many movements or how the sweeping angle of the bristles differs is unknown.

Philips wont, despite repeated requests, disclose how the brushes are configured for each mode.

By changing either the amplitude or the frequency; or varying one or both of them during the brushing cycle, the different cleaning/brushing modes are achieved.

Photo of the cleaning mode selection options within the Philips smartphone app.
The Sonicare 9900 Prestige requires brushing modes to be selected via the app rather than the brush handle itself


Easy-Start is a feature built into the majority of Sonicare brushes.

Over the first 14 brushing sessions (1 week) the handle gently increases the power to help you get used to the sensation of using a Sonicare toothbrush.

This is brilliant for new electric toothbrush users and helps desensitize to the sensation of using such a product.

But, this will explain for some why the brush might not feel that powerful out of the box. It can usually be disabled if you don't want to benefit from it.

There are no cleaning mode labels on my handle - how do I know which brushing mode is selected?

Some of the most affordable Sonicare models do not have any cleaning mode labels on the brush handle, to make it obvious what mode or intensity is currently selected. The 1100 Series is one example.

It is not usually necessary for a brush handle with 1 mode or intensity to need such. But, for those handles with 2 or more options, it can be infuriating.

Sonicare brushes with no clenaing modes labels.
3 Sonicare brush handles that have no cleaning mode labels or icons despite multiple modes

We can't think of a Sonicare model with 3 brushing modes that doesn't have cleaning mode labels. Compared to Oral-B which offers many brushes with 3 or 4 modes with no labels, Sonicare brushes are designed with more consideration for the user.

It might be preferable to have mode labels when there are 2 modes to choose between, but the differences between each are usually easily identified. There is typically a notable difference in sound, brushing sensation, and the feeling in the hand.

Take the 3100 and 4100 Series. Both these handles offer 2 intensities, but no labels. Our senses can easily identify and differentiate between the high and low choices on offer. The more you use the brush and the more frequently you switch, the easier it becomes to learn which is which.

In most cases, the user manual will tell you in what order the modes or intensities are set, if you are unsure.

We've made the following video to help identify which mode is which if you are still unsure.

Philips Sonicare brushing modes explained 4

The top of the line Prestige 9900 has 5 modes, but no labels on the brush handle. This model is a bit of an exception to the general rule. Although there are 5 options to choose from the mode can only be set via the smartphone app and not the handle itself. Unless you remember what mode was set via the app, the handle itself has no way of showing the active mode.

Changing the order of cleaning modes

It's not possible to change the order of the cleaning modes on a Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush.

They are set with no option, currently at least to rearrange the order in which they are accessed.

As more smart toothbrushes come to market, such might be made possible in the future.

Unlike some brands, most Sonicare models default to the last mode used. Therefore you can access your preferred mode quicker than you can on some models from Oral-B for example, that require you to cycle through the modes, every time you use the brush.

Which brushes have which modes?

Deep Clean
Brushing Intensities
Philips Sonicare 1100 Series yes - - - - - - -
Philips Sonicare 2100 Series yes - - - - - - 2
Philips Sonicare 3100 Series yes - - - - - - 2
Philips Sonicare 4100 Series yes - - - - - - 2
Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4500 yes - - yes - - - -
Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 yes - yes yes - - - 3
Philips Sonicare ExpertClean 7300 yes - - yes yes - - 3
Philips Sonicare DiamondClean 9000 yes - yes yes yes - - 3
Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9750 yes - yes yes yes yes - 3
Philips Sonicare DiamondClean 9900 Prestige yes yes yes yes yes - - 3
Author: Jon Love
Medical reviewer: Dr Gemma Wheeler, BDS

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Leave a comment

Kia Fallahi Dool koochak
June 20, 2021

Nice! Thanks for clarifying 62000 movement vs 31000.

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