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Medically Reviewed
Published: June 6, 2024

Philips Sonicare brushing modes explained

Author: Jon Love (23 Comments)
Medical reviewer: Dr Gemma Wheeler, BDS
Philips Sonicare brushing modes explained 1

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 They are no longer current and these modes won't be found on current Sonicare brush handles.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 labeled 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 2

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 3

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 4

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 5

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 - - - - - - -
Philips Sonicare 3100 Series yes - - - - - - -
Philips Sonicare 4100 Series yes yes - - - - - -
Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4300 yes - - - - - - 2
Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 5100 yes - 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 9400 yes - yes yes yes - - 3
Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9700 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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October 20, 2023

Any idea why the Sonicare 5100 sounds exactly like the lower (31k movements/min) models in the range?
Doing the calculations, the 5100 should have a tone of about 516Hz, either square or sawtooth wave (waveform generator linked below) yet a tone of 260Hz (square or sawtooth) seems to line up perfectly with the way it sounds.
Which would indicate that it isn't producing the supposed 62,000 movements per minute (62,000/2 = 31,000/60 = 516Hz) but instead the supposedly inferior 258Hz vibration/oscillation.

Do Phillips have an explanation as to why this is? A 1KHz tone is very audibly different to a 500Hz tone and it's obviously a 500Hz tone. Outside of false advertising, the only thing I can think of is having two oscillators moving out of phase (one up one down) to boost amplitude but keep the frequency the same, though phase cancellation would be a thing then, reducing the power of the brush.

Jon Love - Chief tester
October 24, 2023

Hi John.

I'm afraid I can't comment on this. May I suggest directing your enquiry to Philips themselves to see if they can assist and advise.

October 16, 2023

The adjusted of motor of the 1000-4000 series also just sounds like artificially gimping the motor that can produce the same 31.000 strokes as the other models. The syncing of the brushes with the compatible cleaning modes also sounds very arbitrary.

November 26, 2022

Why does the Philips sonicate diamond clean special edition 9000 have only 31,000 strokes and says it makes teeth whiter in only 3 days and removes more plaque but the cheaper models such as the 4300 has 62000 and says it makes teeth whiter in 10 days?

Jon Love - Chief tester
November 28, 2022

Hi Maria.

There is a difference between strokes and movements. As a general rule, 1 stroke = 2 movements. Thus the 31,000 strokes of the DiamondClean 9000 is 62,000 movements just like the Sonicare 4300.

The claims for whitening are based on different studies and depend on the brush heads etc included in the box.

These results can be hard to replicate at home and there are a whole number of influencing factors.

Ultimately, used correctly both clean the teeth comparably.

November 29, 2022

Thank you! That’s so interesting. I’ve just gone to buy the 4300 since reading your reply and wanted to get the A3 heads to make it a better clean on the Philips website the 4300 is now £10 more expensive than 9000 as there’s a sale on, or another store the 4300 is £50 cheaper which one do you think is the best in terms of cleaning/whitening? I don’t care about the ap or modes just want the more superior clean/plaque removal and whitening would be good. Thank you

Jon Love - Chief tester
November 29, 2022

There is no difference in the cleaning ability of the brushes. Used correctly, both will clean the teeth well.
Thus, I suggest, going for the 4300 at £50 cheaper. It does what you need.
Of course, you should buy the one you are happiest with, so if that is the 9000, so be it. As long as you do so knowing the pros and cons etc.

November 26, 2022

(The Philips Sonicare HX9911 DiamondClean 9000 Special Edition) says 31,000 strokes and is an more expensive model (usually £300!) with reviews saying amazing clean vs the £60 Philips Sonicare HX6807 ProtectiveClean 4300 much cheaper model with 62,000? please help as I want to get the best quality toothbrush with my thorough clean possible and whitening but only 31,000 on the 9000 is confusing me!

Thank you!

October 9, 2022

Ahh OK, thank you for explanation. Then I will go with 4300 series :)

October 8, 2022

You are writing that 3100 series for example has different motor and cannot achieve 62000 movements but it is stated that they have 31k strokes which you explained is the same as 62k movements.

"Some newer brushes, such as the 1100, 2100, 3100 and 4100 Series are listed as having 31,000 brush strokes only. They don’t achieve the 62,000 movements.

This is because the motors are configured differently."

Jon Love - Chief tester
October 9, 2022

Hi Marcin.
I appreciate this is confusing and I would love to offer a very clear and reasoned explanation of all the differences between modes and motors.
However, the reality is that Philips doesn't offer lots of information on their brushing technology and how the motors work to achieve the strokes and movements that they do.
Based on our research and speaking with Philips Sonicare customer services we have learnt that as a general rule, most Philips Sonicare brushes have or have had motors that offer 31,000 brush strokes & 62,000 movements.
With the newer models specifically, including the 1100, 2100, 3100 and 4100 Series the motors have been configured differently. This means the 31,000 strokes don't equal 62,000 movements.
The upshot is the cleaning results are still good, you just don't get the same intensity and power with these models when you brush as you do with some other models the company offers.

February 3, 2022

Very clear information about the Sonicare Toothbrush. Very helpful! Thank you!!!

Philip Blackshaw
July 1, 2021

I cannot set my Sonicare 7300 to a two minute cycle. I have tried the advice on your website but the toothbrush beeps every 20 seconds.

Jon Love - Chief tester
July 1, 2021


I think what you are referring to is the 20 second beep is the pacer.

This is one of the most essential features of an electric toothbrush. Brushing for the right amount of time and using the correct technique will improve your oral health.

Typically, it is advised to break the mouth up into 4 sections, upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left. The idea is 30 seconds are spent on each section of the mouth. After 2 minutes the result will be a fairly even clean across all teeth.

Sonicare have implemented this slightly differently on some models. They have set the pacer at 20 second intervals.

This results in 6 sections of the mouth to brush.

1 – Upper right back teeth
2 – Upper front teeth
3 – Upper left back teeth
4 – Lower left back teeth
5 – Lower front teeth
6 – Lower right back teeth

The 6 sections of 20 seconds intervals still result in the same brushing time (2 minutes). It is just a slightly different approach.

As you clean each section, you need to make sure you brush the front, back and top surfaces of the teeth.

Doing this should help ensure all teeth get an even clean and you help maintain your smile.

At the end of the 2 minutes, the toothbrush automatically turns itself off. This is a very obvious sign that the required brushing time has passed.

If you want to brush for longer, you can. You will just need to turn the brush back on.

I do hope this helps.

July 5, 2022


Is it possible to change the 6 sections of 20 seconds intervals back to 4 sections of 30sec???

Jon Love - Chief tester
July 5, 2022

It will depend on the brush you have. As far as I am aware, generally not.

You speak as if you once had it?

July 5, 2022

I just bought the 9000 DiamondClean and noticed it used 6 sections of 20 seconds.

I have been using Philips Sonicare tooth brushes for over 10y and i prefered the 4 sections of 30sec.

Is there anyway to change that???

Jon Love - Chief tester
July 6, 2022

Thanks for clarifying Nino. Sadly I am not aware of any way to change this from 20 second to 30 second pacing.

David Taylor
March 22, 2021

A very useful article.
I have just bought a 5100 which came with one G2 and one W brush heads. I have bought some C2 heads.
Now wondering how often to use each mode and head. Would it be 12 times Clean and 1 each of White and Gum in a week?

October 16, 2023

So all the cleaning modes do is adjust the intensity of the brushes and the amount of time you should spent on a section of your teeth? I guess I expected more than the white mode just being about spending an extra 20 seconds on the front teeth, I can do that just fine on my own. I wish Philips would be more transparent about the way they configure their brushes and the different brush heads. The way it is now you can't back up any of their claims about some premium brush head cleaning 20x more effectively.

Jon Love - Chief tester
March 23, 2021

Hi David.

How often you use each mode and which brush head is entirely up to you. The vast majority (myself included) stick with 1 mode and 1 head.

I would generally suggest sticking with 'Clean' mode most of the time and then on a few occasions using White or Gum care mode if you really want to make use of these.

So maybe of your total 14 brushing sessions in a week make 2 of them white, 4 of them gum and 8 the clean mode.

November 4, 2020

Given the sonic nature of the toothbrushes, the number of strokes can be measured with a frequency meter app on your phone. Of course, having the brush in question would be required, or having a good audio recording of one.

I have just gotten a BoomBrush. A new brand.

From the documentation card, the modes here are:
1. Clear - General mode to get used to sonic brushing
2. Swipe - Soft mode, best for sensitive teeth
3. Pulse - Pulsating vibrations for massaging gums
4. Switch - Alternating vibrations for tongue and cheek
5. Power - A beastly powerful mode for plaque removal

I don't yet know the frequency, but Clear mode produces a pure sine-wave frequency. Pulse seems to be the same frequency passed through a flange filter. The other three modes are more difficult to describe at the moment as I haven't paid them enough attention yet.

As to the responses from customer service representatives, the characteristics may be considered trade secrets or something thus preventing them from outright telling you. Doing your own measurements would be best if you can get ahold of the brushes, for where there's no answer available.

I'll let you know more about the BoomBrush as I test it, if I remember to do so. :)

Jon Love - Chief tester
November 4, 2020

Thanks Jeremy. I was not aware that this was possible.

I must admit my knowledge of how this would be done lacks. Can you explain how this might be possible? I certainly have many brushes to hand.

I would also appreciate your thoughts on Boombrush. This is not a product I have tested as yet.

Kevin McCoy
August 31, 2019

My Sonicare brush (HX8920B) has `clean` and `gum plus` modes written on the front of it.
I cannot work out how to enable `gum plus` I have looked at manuals online; nothing.

Jon Love - Chief tester
September 1, 2019

Hi Kevin,

The process to access and use 'Gum Plus' mode should be as follows:

1. Press the power on/off button to turn on your Philips Sonicare.
2. Press the power on/off button again within 2.5 seconds to switch to Gum Plus mode.

Kevin McCoy
September 1, 2019

Hi Jon,
You sir, are an absolute legend! Thanks in spades, I've been trying for a year.

Best regards


Jon Love - Chief tester
September 1, 2019

Thanks Kevin. Glad I could help.

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