Picture of a Sonicare toothbrush.

Sonicare Electric Brush

Sonicare brushing modes, timers, features - (What does each do? | Which do you really need?)

- Brushing modes: Clean, Deep Clean, White, Gum Care, Refresh, Sensitive, Massage, Easy-start. Timers: Smartimer, KidTimer, QuadPacer, BrushPacer. Features: Excessive pressure indicator, Smartphone app. |

If you've read through our review of the Sonicare toothbrush lineup, you know that different models have different combinations of features. They include:

Brushing modes - Clean, White, Deep Clean, Gum Care, Sensitive, Massage, Refresh, TongueCare

Brushing intensity settings - High, Medium, Low, Easy-Start

Brushing timers - Smartimer, QuadPacer, BrushPacer, KidTimer and KidPacer.

Features - Brushing pressure indicators, Smartphone brushing app.

This page contains information about each, so to help you decide which are important for you.


Sonicare brushing modes. - Which ones do you need?

For the average consumer, this is a big question. With so many models to choose from, with each having their own different combination of brushing modes, which ones are important to have on the brush you buy?

And for us, since the focus of our Best Sonicares page is picking out models that have as few unneeded options as possible (like extra brushing modes), we needed to figure this issue out for ourselves too.

How we came up with an answer.

Towards figuring things out, we studied the user manuals for each of the current Sonicare models that offer multiple brushing settings. And using that information, came to some conclusions. Here's what we determined ...

A) Clean mode.

This is the default full-power setting on a Sonicare toothbrush. And derived from the information found in user manuals and Sonicare promotional materials, on this page we'll make the case that for the vast majority of people, this is the (only) brushing mode they should be using.

62,000 brush-movements-per-minute is the key.

The unique cleaning action that Sonicare toothbrushes deliver is based on the rapid rate at which their brush heads vibrate. And on their good models, that number is 62,000 brush-MOVEMENTS-per-minute.

Movements?

Yes, movements. From the inception of the Sonicare brand up until just a few years ago (2016 or so), promotional materials for their toothbrushes always referred to their brushing action as 31,000 brush-STROKES-per-minute.

So if you've owned Sonicares before, you might remember that number and think that this "62,000" thing is something new and improved.

Well, it's not.

As it turns out, this is just a play on terminology. Here's what's actually going on. Using their revised math:

  • 1 brush STROKE (an up and down motion) = 2 brush MOVEMENTS (one up, one down)

And that means ...

  • 31,000 brush-STROKES-per-minute = 62,000 brush-MOVEMENTS-per-minute. They describe the same rate of speed (frequency).

So, there's nothing new and improved here. Both brushing action descriptions are equivalents. (Nice try Sonicare marketing department.)

Confirmation.

A website visitor to Animated-Teeth.com left a comment below that describes a simple test that anyone can use to confirm that the frequency at which a Sonicare operates is the same-old 31,000 brush-strokes-per-minute and not something new and different.

Here's a link to their explanation. (Thank you, David.) The test itself is simply comparing the hum your toothbrush makes to the musical note that a frequency of 31,000 Hz corresponds with. (Yes, that is why they're referred to as "sonic" toothbrushes.)

 

So, what makes using Clean mode so special?

It's the way a Sonicare vibrates that makes it special.

Animation showing the fluid-dynamics cleaning action of a Sonicare toothbrush.

It can clean beyond where its bristles touch.

A Sonicare's cleaning ability is actually due to two mechanisms:
You might be surprised to learn that a sonic toothbrush cleans your teeth in two different ways.
  • The more important of the two is the one that's obvious. It's the action of the toothbrush's bristles scrubbing against your teeth that does most of the plaque-removing work.

    Of course, this is how every toothbrush works (sonic or not). But with a Sonicare, it's high rate of motion creates a very effective and efficient scrubbing action.

  • But different than other kinds of brushes, a sonic toothbrush's vibratory motion also creates what is referred to as "fluid dynamics."

    This is a phenomenon where the liquids surrounding your teeth (water, saliva) are agitated to the extent that they're able to disrupt dental plaque colonies beyond where the bristles of the brush actually touch.

    Only a toothbrush operating at a high enough frequency can make this claim. This effect is an interesting phenomenon, you can read more about it on our page that explains how sonic toothbrushes work.

 

Which Sonicare models have the full-power, 62,000 brush-movements-per-minute setting?

Gosh, we wish we knew.

It used to be easy to report which Sonicare models had their good brushing action and which ones didn't. It was as simple as saying ...

  • All current Sonicare models do ...
  • ... with the exception of the PowerUp product line that doesn't.
Nowadays, who knows what's going on?

When revising our pages in late 2019, we discovered that what the Sonicare website (USA version) reported about the frequency of the brushing action of some models was entirely different than what had been previously stated literally for years on end. (We rant about this issue here.)

What we can tell you is this.

These toothbrush lines do feature Sonicare's hallmark 62,000 brush-movements/minute brushing action.

  • Diamond Clean Smart
  • Diamond Clean
  • FlexCare Platinum Connected
  • FlexCare Platinum
  • FlexCare+
  • ExpertClean
  • HealthyWhite+
  • HealthyWhite
  • ProtectiveClean
  • For Kids
 

And these are the only Sonicare lines we review on our website.

And the others?

In regard to the 2 Series plaque control, 3 Series gum health, Essence, EasyClean and DailyClean (if this is really just the old Essence+, which we think it is) ...

We'll simply state that in previous years, these brushes were reported as having Sonicare's hallmark brushing action (31,000 brush-strokes/per-minute | 62,000 brush-movements/minute). But as mentioned above, at the time of doing the research needed for the rewrite of our pages, they were not. So, we simply don't know if they do or don't.

In regard to choosing a Sonicare, taking these models out of consideration isn't that much of a loss. Our list above includes some other inexpensive models that will serve you well. (If you need some help with your decision-making process, check out our Best-value Sonicares page.)

 

Why do we think that just using Clean mode makes the best choice?

Answer: Because Clean mode runs your Sonicare in its unadulterated full-power, 62,000 brush-movements-per-minute brushing motion. The action isn't dumbed-down by gimmicky spurts and sputters, it's just the real (most-efficient, most-effective) thing.
And since the single most important aspect of brushing your teeth is the removal of dental plaque, a task that most people really aren't all that successful in accomplishing (even with an electric), what would be the purpose of using some less effective brushing mode?

You don't have to just take our word on this.

There's plenty of evidence in Sonicare publications that confirm our stance that Clean mode makes the best choice in terms of brushing efficiency and effectiveness. We'll simply rest our case by quoting them.
a) Clean mode descriptions.
Here's the way this mode is described in user manuals for three of Sonicare's higher-end brushes.
  • Clean mode is "the Ultimate in plaque removal." - The DiamondClean (2016), HealthyWhite+ (2015)
  • Clean mode is the "standard mode for superior teeth cleaning." - FlexCare Platinum Connected (2016)

 

The statements in other toothbrush manuals are a little less definitive. Although, how much more effective can a brush be than "completely"?
  • Clean mode "gives you a thorough and complete clean." - The DiamondClean Smart (2017)
  • Clean mode provides "complete whole mouth cleaning." - FlexCare+ (2013)

 

b) Additional excerpts about Clean mode.

When studies that evaluate the effectiveness of Sonicare products are performed, Philips Sonicare wants it known that they expect their products to be used in their most effective setting. And to that point, here's what the user manuals of various models state:

  • "When the Sonicare is used in clinical studies, the default 2-minute Clean mode must be selected." - The FlexCare+ (2013)
  • "When the Philips Sonicare is used in clinical studies, the default 2-minute Clean mode with high intensity must be selected." - The FlexCare Platinum Connected (2016) and HealthyWhite+ (2015)
  • "When the Philips Sonicare is used in clinical studies, it must be used in the default 2-minute Clean mode or in the Deep Clean mode" - The DiamondClean (2016)
  • "When the Philips Sonicare is used in clinical studies, it must be used at high intensity in the Clean mode, in White+ mode, in GumHealth mode, or in unconnected DeepClean+ mode to achieve the efficacy in plaque removal, stain removal, gum health or superiority (respectively)." - The DiamondClean Smart (2017)

 

Surely you noticed ...

a) The DiamondClean line.

We'll concede that the statement from the DiamondClean user manual implies that the effectiveness of Clean and Deep Clean modes are equivalent, so that one can be considered a draw. We do find it interesting however that there's no mention of this point for the FlexCare Platinum Connected which also has Deep Clean mode.

We'll also mention that Deep Clean mode on these brushes is a 3-minute routine that combines alternating periods of cleaning and massaging.

So we're comfortable holding the opinion that if you would simply brush using Clean mode for a full 3 minutes (instead of its regular 2, which would bring using it to a full apples-to-apples comparison with the Deep Clean), in terms of brushing effectiveness and efficiency you would come out ahead.

b) The DiamondClean Smart line.

In regard to the mention of Clean mode in this line's manual, we think we understand the meaning of the awkward phrase "achieve the efficacy in plaque removal." But we're not so clear on the meaning of the equivalent phrase carved out of the manual pertaining to the DeepClean+: "achieve the efficacy in superiority."

Also, and like above, we will point out that with this brush a direct comparison between the Clean and DeepClean+ modes may not be a true apples-to-apples one. The DeepClean+ routine runs for either 2 or 3 minutes (depending on whether or not the brush is in "connected" mode), while the Clean mode is a 2-minute timed event.

And because of this, we once again have no problem holding the opinion that if both were used for the same total duration that Clean mode could be expected to provide brushing effectiveness on par or better than the Deep Clean.

How to find the "Clean" mode setting on your toothbrush.

  • On brushes that feature multiple brushing modes, Clean is typically the standard or default setting.
  • On Sonicares that only have a single brushing speed, it's Clean mode.
  • If the brush has intensity settings, choose Clean mode and the High-intensity setting.

 


B) Sensitive mode.

Some Sonicare models offer a reduced-power or "sensitive" brushing setting. And besides Clean, this is the only additional mode that we feel might be needed. And even then, only for a special subset of users.

[As opposed to offering a specific "sensitive" brushing setting, some models (see below) feature different brush intensity settings (High/Low or High/Medium/Low).]

What's the purpose of this feature?

Some people may find that the standard, full-power brushing action of their brush is too vigorous or intense. And if so, they may not use it because it's:

  • Uncomfortable to their teeth or gums.
  • Generally too overwhelming. (This is sometimes a problem for medically debilitated or elderly persons.)
  • "Tickles" too much.

For those encountering these problems, using their brush in a reduced-power mode may offer a solution.

The trade-off of using Sensitive mode.

When a lower-power setting is selected, a Sonicare will vibrate with less intensity, thus making its brushing session less efficient and effective.

That makes choosing this setting a make-do solution, rather than a first choice. Whenever possible, the user is always better served by using their Sonicare in its full-power (Clean) mode.

Which Sonicare lines have a sensitive setting?

We've noticed this mode on brushes included in the following Sonicare lines. However, you'll need to check the details of the specific model you plan to purchase for confirmation.

  • Have Sensitive mode: DiamondClean, FlexCare+, HealthyWhite.
  • These lines don't have a Sensitive mode per se but have an brushing intensity setting that could be used to mimic it: DiamondClean Smart, FlexCare Platinum Connected, FlexCare Platinum, ExpertClean, HealthyWhite+, Protective Clean, Sonicare for Kids

 


C) The Easy-start feature.

As just discussed, some people may find the full-power setting of their new sonic toothbrush too uncomfortable or foreign to want to use.

In these instances, it may be that the person simply needs a break-in period. One during which they can gradually get accustomed to using their new brush.

As a way of providing for this type of transition, Philips Sonicare has developed a feature they call Easy-start.

When this option is selected, a routine is begun where the brush will automatically and gradually raise the power (intensity) of its brushing action step-by-step over the user's next twelve to fourteen brushing events (depending on the model).

How does Easy-start help?

  • Most people probably use this option as a way of getting used to the tickling sensation they notice when using their new brush.
  • For others, the current ill-health of their gum tissue may lie at the root of their problem.

    If so, the Easy-start function provides a period over which a user's sensitive, inflamed gums have a chance to heal (due to improved brushing with their new brush) in tandem with the gradual speed-up of their brush to full power.

 

Which brushes have the Easy-start feature?

We're under the impression that all Sonicare models offer this option, with the exception of the PowerUps.

Just so you know.
  • Once the Easy-start function has been initiated, your toothbrush needs to remain a "one user" brush over its next twelve to fourteen uses as it slowly ramps up in power.
  • Each brushing session must be at least one minute in duration for the Easy-Start feature to work properly.
  • This feature does not work with tongue cleaning modes.

Pictures of Sonicare electric toothbrushes.

Our affiliate links can be used to shop for Sonicare toothbrushes. We participate with both Amazon.com  and  Walmart.com programs.

Disclosure:  Sales stemming from our affiliate links earn a commission for our website, although without any additional cost to you.


D) Novelty brushing modes.

The higher-end Sonicare models come with multiple brushing modes or routines. And generally speaking, we're not such big fans of them.

We feel we've made the case above that with all things being equal (like total brushing duration), just using Clean mode will serve the vast majority of people best.

And for those few who can't tolerate its vigorous brushing action, Sensitive mode would be our backup choice.

Details about Sonicare's additional brushing modes.

For your information, here's how Philips Sonicare has chosen to describe their novelty modes and routines in the user manuals of their products.

a) White / White+ mode.

Which models have this mode? - We've noticed this mode on brushes included in the following Sonicare lines. However, you'll need to check the details of the specific model you plan to purchase for confirmation.

DiamondClean Smart (White+), DiamondClean, FlexCare Platinum Connected, FlexCare Platinum, HealthyWhite+, HealthyWhite (Clean and White), ProtectiveClean

Example descriptions from user manuals:

  • DiamondClean Smart - "White+ is a 2-minute 40-seconds mode, recommended to be used with intensity level 3." (2017)
  • DiamondClean - "2 minutes to remove surface stains and 30 seconds to brighten and polish your front teeth." (2016)
  • FlexCare Platinum Connected - "2 minutes of alternating between White and Massage, with an additional 40 seconds to polish your visible front teeth." (2016)
  • HealthyWhite+ - "White mode lasts for 2.5 minutes and includes four 30-second Quadpacer intervals and two additional 15-second Quadpacer intervals to focus on your visible front teeth." (2015)

 

Our comments. / Things you should know about whitening teeth.

  • A toothbrush on its own cannot change the intrinsic color of teeth. For example, if the color of your tooth enamel is naturally yellow, using a toothbrush will not change that fact.
  • Toothbrush usage can inhibit extrinsic tooth staining (surface stain). It can either prevent it from building up, or help to remove it once it has formed.
  • That which ultimately transforms into surface stain begins as soft debris accumulation on your teeth (dental plaque, etc...). If it is not allowed to accumulate (by way of effective brushing and flossing), no surface staining will form.

 

Now consider these points ...

Above, we make the case that Clean mode on a Sonicare is usually it's best (most efficient, most effective) brushing mode. That means it's the mode most capable of removing the debris that ultimately transforms into staining.

So in regard to inhibiting stain, we fail to understand how a brushing motion that combines Sonicare's best brushing action (Clean mode) with other motions (which the White modes do) could be more effective than just using Clean mode alone.

A pair of Sonicare's own studies document this exact point.

The articles we're referring to are:

  • Evaluation of tooth shade change following stain induction and Sonicare HealthyWhite use. - Putt M, Milleman J, Jenkins W, Wei J, Schmitt P, Strate J. Data on file, 2007.
  • Evaluation of tooth shade change following stain induction and Sonicare FlexCare use. - Putt M, Milleman J, Jenkins W, Wei J, Schmitt P, Strate J. Data on file, 2007.

The findings of both of these studies, each of which evaluated a different Sonicare model, drew the exact same conclusion. In fact, both studies used the exact same text:

  • The FlexCare/HealthyWhite (depending on which study you're reading) ...
  • "was shown to be effective in removing commonly observed extrinsic stain-forming pigments from tooth surfaces. An improvement of 2 Vitapan Classical shades was seen following 2, 3 and 6 weeks of product use."

What we're saying here is that both of these models were stated to produce the same level of whitening improvement. But at the time of the study, the FlexCare product line didn't offer a Clean & White (or White) option. Full-power (Clean) mode was it's "top" speed, suggesting that its use was just as effective.

What is special about White mode?

If you'll notice above, the White mode routine runs longer than Clean (on the order of 25% depending on the model). And generally speaking, if a person brushes longer they'll end up being more effective (that's the whole premise of brushing timers). So from that standpoint using White mode has a potential advantage.

But it would be our belief, per the information just explained, that if you would instead brush 25% longer with Clean mode you would duplicate or exceed the effect created by White mode.

b) Refresh mode.

Which models have this mode? - We've noticed this mode on brushes included in the following Sonicare line. However, you'll need to check the details of the specific model you plan to purchase for confirmation.

FlexCare+

Description from the user manual: 1 minute touch-up for a quick clean.

Our comments: We see absolutely no reason to encourage people to brush for a shorter period of time.

Every dentist has patients who say they brush an excessive number of times per day, yet still have poor oral hygiene. It's because they never brush long enough to be thorough and effective.

c) Gum Care mode.

Which models have this mode? - We've noticed this mode on brushes included in the following Sonicare lines. However, you'll need to check the details of the specific model you plan to purchase for confirmation.

DiamondClean Smart (Gum Health), DiamondClean, FlexCare+, ExpertClean, ProtectiveClean.

Example descriptions from the user manuals:

  • DiamondClean Smart - "a 3-minute 20-seconds mode, recommended to be used with intensity level 3."
  • DiamondClean - "Complete whole mouth cleaning (2 minutes) plus gentle cleaning for problem areas and along the gumline (1 minute)."
  • FlexCare+ - "Complete whole mouth cleaning (2 minutes) plus gentle cleaning for problem areas and along the gumline (1 minute)."

Our comments:

If you want healthy gums you need to thoroughly clean your teeth (and around them) above, at and below the gum line. And the only way you can accomplish this is by brushing and flossing.

Since using Gum Care mode is a 3 minute-plus routine, we'd suggest that a person would come out ahead by doing either one of the following instead:

  • Brushing with clean mode for 2 minutes and flossing 1 minute longer.
  • Brushing using Clean mode for the equivalent 3 minute-plus duration.

d) Massage mode.

Which models have this mode? - We've noticed this mode on brushes included in the following Sonicare line. However, you'll need to check the details of the specific model you plan to purchase for confirmation.

FlexCare+

Description from user manual: "Gentle gum stimulation (2 minutes)."

Our comments: We'd expect that anyone's dentist would agree that you'd gain more benefit from flossing for an extra two minutes as opposed to using this mode.

e) DeepClean mode.

Which models have this mode? - We've noticed this mode on brushes included in the following Sonicare lines. However, you'll need to check the details of the specific model you plan to purchase for confirmation.

DiamondClean Smart (Deep Clean+), DiamondClean, FlexCare Platinum Connected, FlexCare Platinum, ExpertClean (Deep Clean+)

Example descriptions from user manuals:

  • DiamondClean Smart - The manual gives limited information other than this is a 2 or 3-minute brushing routine depending on how your brush is configured.
  • DiamondClean - "Provides an invigorating 3 minutes of alternating cleaning and massaging to deliver an exceptionally clean experience."
  • FlexCare Platinum Connected - "Provides an invigorating of deep massage to deliver an exceptionally clean experience."

Our comments: As we discussed above, we'll concede that using this mode is probably as effective, or possibly more so (DiamondClean Smart models), as using a brush's Clean setting.

Having said that, we anticipate that much of the benefit derived from the use of Deep Clean stems from the fact that it's a 3-minute mode rather than just two. And by using Clean mode for a full 3 minutes you would ultimately come out ahead.

f) TongueCare mode.

Which models have this mode? - We've noticed this mode on brushes included in the following Sonicare lines. However, you'll need to check the details of the specific model you plan to purchase for confirmation.

DiamondClean Smart

This setting is designed for use with Sonicare's silicone-bristled TongueCare+ brush head for tongue surface cleaning.

Description from user manual:

  • "TongueCare is a 20-second mode."
  • Sonicare recommends that a brush's High intensity setting is selected when this mode is utilized.

 

Our comments: We would be hesitant to recommend going to the expense of buying a pricey DiamondClean Smart model just to get this feature.

We discuss the issue of tongue cleaning here and would anticipate that the methods described there would be equally effective, if not more so, than the use of this brushing mode.


E) The Smartimer feature.

Sonicare's Smartimer function is a simple brushing timer. This feature takes the general recommendation from dental professionals that a person should brush for at least two minutes literally.

The Smartimer starts when the toothbrush is turned on. It then automatically shuts the brush off after two minutes of use. (With some models this brushing cycle can be extended to 2 1/2 or 3 minutes.) This is a built-in feature and cannot be deactivated.

It's OK to brush longer.

It seems to us that the Smartimer feature tacitly implies to a user that brushing for just two minutes is enough. As any dentist will tell you, that may or may not be the case.

Of course, some people (possibly most) need all the help they can get just to brush for a full two minutes. So for them, it's great that this feature exists. For anyone who wants to brush longer, it's a nuisance.

Using the Smartimer.

You'll need to read your brush's manual for specific details but generally ...

  • While running, if you hold your brush's Off switch down for 2 seconds, when you turn it back on the Smartimer picks up where it left off.
  • If you return your brush to its recharger, the Smartimer resets.
  • As we stated above, there is no way to permanently turn off this feature, which is a shame.

F) The QuadPacer feature.

The Sonicare QuadPacer function is a pause-and-beep indicator that signals when one-fourth of the Smartimer brushing cycle has elapsed. (With some models, there are variations to this basic theme.)

The idea associated with using this feature is that it helps to ensure that you've cleaned all areas of your mouth equally and thoroughly:

  • The user needs to think of their mouth in terms of 4 sections (upper teeth outside, upper teeth inside, lower teeth outside, lower teeth inside).
  • The QuadPacer indicator signals when they should move on to cleaning the next section of their mouth.
  • Somewhere during the 4 cycles, the person obviously needs to make sure they've included cleaning the chewing surfaces of their back teeth too.
Notes:

This feature could be especially beneficial for the uninterested or uncooperative brusher. And in general, it seems that many users enjoy using it and consider it to be an important aspect of their brushing routine.

If the QuadPacer does not appeal to you, some models of the FlexCare line (FlexCare+) and also the HealthyWhite+ allow you to deactivate it.


G) The BrushPacer feature.

The BrushPacer function is essentially the same as the QuadPacer. It's a beep-and-pause signal that comes from the brush handle. What's different about it is that it divides your timed brushing event into 6 divisions (back upper right, upper front, back upper left, etc...) instead of just 4 quadrants.

Notes:

While it can be used on its own (just like the QuadPacer is with other brushes), it's intended that you use the BrushPacer function in conjunction with the Sonicare smartphone brushing app (DiamondClean Smart and FlexCare Platinum Connected models, see next section). This feature can be deactivated on the FlexCare Platinum Connected models.


H) The Sonicare smartphone brushing app.

This feature is only available with specially designed models. (Our Sonicare Toothbrush Lines page includes this information.)

It's important to note that the level of sophistication of the app varies according to toothbrush line too. For example, with high-end Sonicares the app provides real-time mouth-mapping, so to help you identify areas you have missed. Low-end brushes don't offer this high level of integration. (This type of difference between models is also noted on our Toothbrush Lines page.)

General features.
  • As you clean your teeth, the app shows both where you have brushed and currently are brushing.
  • It also registers if you have brushed each section of your mouth for long enough to have been effective. (The idea is to use the app in conjunction with the BrushPacer's signals and advance to the next section of your mouth every time it beeps.)

    If it determines that a region has been underserved, it prompts you to return to that area and brush longer.

  • The app can signal if the brush's scrubbing sensors have detected that your technique involves too much of that type of motion.
  • Based on brushing duration and pressure information, the app can calculate when and signal if when your current brush head should be replaced.
  • The app provides historical information about your brushing sessions so you can review and learn from them.
Our opinion about the need for a brushing app:

We'll agree that In many ways the Sonicare brushing app is impressive. And it's also easy enough to see how it could be beneficial for uninterested or uncooperative brushers by way of adding a degree of discipline to their routine, or by simply making the act of brushing more fun. Also, people who enjoy high-tech toys will enjoy using the app.

But for those people who already know what's important to accomplish when brushing and simply need a brush that will help them do that, there seems little reason to go to the expense of purchasing a model that has this capability.

Traveling with a "connected" Sonicare model on airplanes.

As described above, some Sonicare models have Bluetooth capability so a connection can be made with your smartphone.

Airlines differ in their restrictions on the use of wireless devices on flights. Some airlines ban them, others restrict the types of devices that can be used and/or when they may be turned on.

  • When your Sonicare is switched off its wireless transmitter is turned off too, so it poses no conflict with existing rules.
  • When your toothbrush is on, its wireless transmitter activates too. And in this state its use may or may not be permitted during your flight, depending on your airline's rules.
  • Some Sonicare manuals imply that the brush's Bluetooth signals can be turned off: "If you wish to use the toothbrush in an unconnected mode, the toothbrush will still function." (Some Oral-b models do this.)

    We spent time trying to figure out how to do this but couldn't. Possibly we misinterpreted the quoted line above.

    We spent a long time with Sonicare "chat" support regarding this issue only to be given the answer that this could not be done. The representative we conversed with (4/30/2017) stated that if the brush is on, it emits signals.


I) The KidTimer and KidPacer functions.

The Sonicare For Kids toothbrush offers some variations on the standard Smartimer and QuadPacer functions.

The KidTimer, similar to the Smartimer, is a two-minute brushing timer. However, at the end of its cycle, it plays a "congratulatory sound sequence" before it turns the brush off.

Additionally, when this brush is set to its lower brushing speed, the KidTimer slowly increases in duration from 1 to 2 minutes, over the course of 90 days. The idea is that this slow change helps young children learn how to brush for a full two minutes.

The KidPacer feature signals (with a "short series of tones") for the user to move on to brushing the next quadrant of their mouth as each 1/4th of the brush's brushing cycle elapses.

Both of these are built-in features and cannot be turned off or switched to silent mode.


J) Excessive brushing pressure sensor.

Sonicare models don't always have an excessive brushing pressure indicator (like Oral-b electrics tend to). But their brushing action will stall out when too much pressure is applied.

Studies have shown that neither brand (Sonicare [McCracken 2009] or Oral-b [Rosema 2014]) places the user at risk of gum recession [page references]. And for that reason, we don't favor one brand/design over the other when it comes to this issue.

Section references - McCracken, Rosema

Which models have a specific excessive pressure indicator? - We've noticed this mode on brushes included in the following Sonicare lines. However, you'll need to check the details of the specific model you plan to purchase for confirmation.

DiamondClean Smart, FlexCare Platinum Connected, FlexCare Platinum, ExpertClean, ProtectiveClean

Examples of how this feature works on Sonicares.
  • FlexCare Platinum Connected - The brush handle gently pulsates when too much brushing pressure is detected. (On this model the feature can be deactivated if you like.)
  • DiamondClean Smart - This brush has pressure signaling features similar to the FlexCare Platinum Connected. Also, the butt end of this brush's handle has a lighted ring that illuminates. Feature deactivation is possible.
  • When a brush is being used in conjunction with the brushing app, pressure and scrubbing sensors transmit a warning to your phone's screen that you're brushing too hard or with too much scrubbing motion.

[Philips and Sonicare are registered trademarks of Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. Easy-start and QuadPacer are registered trademarks of Philips Oral HealthCare, Inc.]


Pictures of Sonicare electric toothbrushes.

Our affiliate links can be used to shop for Sonicare toothbrushes. We participate with both Amazon.com  and  Walmart.com programs.

Disclosure:  Sales stemming from our affiliate links earn a commission for our website, although without any additional cost to you.


 
 
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 Page references sources: 

McCracken GI, et al. The impact of powered and manual toothbrushing on incipient gingival recession.

Rosema NA, et al. Gingival abrasion and recession in manual and oscillating-rotating power brush users.

All reference sources for topic Electric Toothbrushes.

Comments

smartimer

Is there anyway to shut off the Smartimer? It is annoying after a few brushes. Thanks.
kevin

That's our feelings about the Smartimer too.

Kevin, We checked with Sonicare and their representative said that the Smartimer is a built-in feature on all models and cannot be permanently deactivated.

We added some additional text above about using this feature that you may find of interest. But it seems there is no solution for your basic complaint.

Turning off smartimer

On newer models, you can push the on/off button for 6-7 seconds while the unit is sitting in the charger to turn off the smartimer feature. I don't think this is available on older models, however. I just purchased the Protectiveclean 5100, which has this available.

DM

We haven't been able to confirm what you report. We've read the user manual for the 6100, 5100 and 4100 ProtectiveClean models. A procedure similar to what you state is explained but for only disabling the EasyStart, Brush head replacement reminder and Pressure sensor features.

Not so sure about the mode explanations

I have owned both the flexcare platinum and the diamondclean sonicare toothbrushes, and disagree with you assuming that all the modes are the clean mode just for a different duration.

If you listen to the toothbrush (weird, but I notice these things) there is a distinctly different pulsating noise in certain modes- Clean mode and White mode sound very different. Of course I couldn't say what the actual difference in strokes is or anything, but it definitely is not just the clean mode for every setting. Would be rather pointless if it was.....

Terri,

We're not saying the modes aren't different (we're 100% sure they do shake and vibrate differently).
We're saying that the differences aren't important or superior to just Clean mode.

The two papers mentioned above are two in-house Sonicare studies.
Each one found that the model of brush it evaluated (Flexcare with one, HealthyWhite with the other) improved the color of teeth "2 shades." (Gave the exact same outcome.)

At that time (2007), the HealthyWhite model featured the specialized whitening mode "Clean and White" but the Flexcare did not.

That means the Clean mode, per Sonicare's own research, whitens just as well as the whitening specialty mode.

Clean mode is the most efficient, most effective mode a Sonicare brush offers. If you want the full effects and maximum benefits of a Sonicare, that is the mode you should be using.

Clean and white are different

I too find clean and white sound different. I appreciate your logic but I would love to know definitively whether white might be snore effective than clean. Here is the frustrating result of asking this on Philips online chat.
Nick: Is there a difference in cleaning action between white and clean. Or is it just a timer difference?
Kiara: I appreciate your concern, I'll be glad to help you with this.
Kiara: Nick, the Clean mode is default mode, while the White mode is for extra whitening. So the in White mode the toothbrush brush vibrates for extra time.
Nick: yes. I get that it vibrates an extra 30 seconds. But does it vibrate differently. Ie stronger or with different motion?
Kiara: The vibrations are bit stronger.
Nick: It sounds slightly different so I wondered this. That makes sense that tha amplitude is different. That seems like a selling feature but I could not find this info anywhere!
Nick: Thanks Kiara. Is this info written anywhere?
Kiara: I'm sorry, ! this information is not written anywhere.
Kiara: Is there anything else I may assist you with today?

Nick

We would think their vagueness pretty much answers your question.

FlexCare Platinum White Mode

That's what I wanted to point out about FlexCare Platinum--White mode is different from Clean mode.

Different how?
Clean mode = vibrate for 2 minutes (does not have a rhythm, think of it this way: Z-----------------------------------end)
White mode = rhythmically vibrate for 2 minutes (Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z......-Z-end) + clean mode for 30 seconds

Refer to Manual and Service Manual:
"Clean The ultimate in plaque removal (default mode).
White 2 minutes of whitening mode to remove surface stains and 30 seconds to brighten and polish your front teeth.
Gum care: Combines Clean mode with an additional minute to gently stimulate and massage gums to improve gum health."

The question we address isn't

The question we address isn't whether each mode is different, we too understand each is. Instead we are more interested in what value each gimmick mode offers, in comparison to just using Clean mode for an equal amount of time.
As discussed above, when it comes to whitening effect it's our opinion that Sonicare's own publications suggest that there is no special advantage to using one of their novelty modes.

Sonic electric toothbrushes

This article about electric toothbrushes is the most informative explanation of how an electric toothbrush operates that I have ever read. It sounds completely honest! The explanations are complete and I wish everyone would read all this before buying an electric toothbrush. Thank you.

Thanks for the kind words

Thanks for the kind words Ivan.

Quadpacer

The 30-second Quadpacer quadrants are actually (1)upper-outside,(2)upper-inside,(3)lower-outside,(4)-lower-inside. I love the quadpacer feature and wish they had it on their lower end models like the 5610. After a few brushings you can get the 30-second interval down pretty good, so each tooth gets equal cleaning :)

Point taken.

Thank you for posting.

Clean & White mode

I would agree that the Healthy White model which I just purchased definitely vibrates MORE on the clean & white mode, even though it's only supposed to add 30 seconds of "whitening" (my interpretation: stronger) at the very end after doing the clean mode (hence the name clean + white rather than just "white") I definitely find this a bit odd. I definitely find it superior to my aging Essence model though, possibly because the brush head needs replacement but I still feel that "super clean" that I was missing from the Essence even though that one works well too. Might also be the Diamond Clean head which feels closest to what it's like when you're getting your teeth cleaned at the hygienist.

Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this informative piece and for your entire website. Super useful and I appreciate it very much. Keep up the good work!

Sonicare - question about Clean Mode

Firstly, your website is extremely informative and has been very useful in my search for a Philips Sonicare toothbrush. Thank you.

Secondly, I do have a question that I couldn't find an answer for. Your website mentions that within the Sonicare line of toothbrushes, there doesn't seem to be a need for all the extra cleaning modes and that the Clean Mode is all one needs. However, in the models that only have the one Clean mode (and runs on a lithium ion battery which is my battery of preference), it is the Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health. This particular toothbrush comes only with one mode but it has 3 intensities to choose from. Which intensity would I choose to for the standard and/or default Clean Mode cleaning?

Thanks,
Pinny

Pinny

The highest (most powerful) intensity setting.

31k brush strokes vs 62k brush movements

Their Facebook page has confirmation that the 31k/62k thing is the same. On a November 9 post on the Philips Sonicare Facebook page about the diamond care...

Matthew K: "Why does the rose gold have 31000 brush strokes compared to the 62000 movements of the other colors?"
November 17 at 7:17am

Philips Sonicare: Hi Matthew, that is a very good question! We will check with our product specialists why this is, as soon as we have more information we will let you know.
November 17 at 7:41am

Matthew: ???
November 22 at 2:39pm

Philips Sonicare: Hi Matthew, thanks for your message! They have the same brush strokes, but it is a different rating they are initially counted in. So there is no difference to these two models in terms of brush strokes. Best wishes, Oscar.
November 23 at 9:48am

Nicolle

Thank you for the reference. It's a shame that Sonicare's promotional materials aren't so forthcoming.

Sonicare modes

Thanks for a really interesting site. The article here that researches the sonicare modes, eg clean vs whitening:
The article concludes that the only difference was the length of time the brush ran for. I thought that at first but also thought that can't be all it is, and noticed that within a 30 second segment, in whitening mode the brush alternates between what seems to be Clean phases and and a heavy vibration phases. So there Is more to it than we think, although whether it has any different effect, who knows. I also wondered about the advice given in user guides, to move to the next of 4 mouth sectors every 30 seconds. Sounds good but that must ignore the fact that from the moment brushing starts, the toothpaste effectiveness must steadily be weakening as it gets diluted by our saliva. So if say the top left is always the last sector to be done then that will always be the least cleaned one. Maybe best to change the order in rotation for each each brushing or just constantly move back and forth throughout the sectors as we go. Anyway, I'm glad I ditched the manual brush, my teeth are so much cleaner and healthier feeling now :-)

Quadpacer

My thoughts on quad pacer were always to think upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left. That way I get inside, outside and molar tops.

That's a good idea, I'm

That's a good idea, I'm definitely going to try this method out. Although I feel like they should have more time to brush the molar tops and tongue before it turns off

Your review of Sonicare

Wow ... thanks for the comprehensive, objective review! Super interesting. Regarding the 'gum' feature, I thought that might be useful in terms of dislodging gunk forming near the base of the gum which could then be brushed away the next time you brush. In such a case (sounds like you don't buy it), I was wondering whether it would make more sense to use the teeth+gum setting at night and then brush it all away in the morning. Anyway, I also use an electric flosser (waterpik) and oral probiotic for mouth (Life Extension). My dentist is thrilled and teeth cleaning takes at least 20% less time and effort.

TK

When you brush your teeth, your goal 100% of the time should be to remove as much dental plaque and accumulated debris from on and around your teeth as possible, including above the gum line, at the gum line and even below. Ideally that should be done twice to three times a day. Being effective in these efforts also requires flossing.

Thorough plaque removal is especially important before bedtime because when we sleep the amount of saliva we produce decreases. That means during sleeping hours the beneficial/protective effect that the presence of saliva produces falls to a lower level. As such, you are placed at greater risk (however minimal) for developing dental health problems.

There's noting wrong with brushing with a less-powerful, less-efficient brushing setting first and then, immediately following, brushing with the most effective one possible (Clean mode) so you get the job done properly. It's just that we don't see the great benefit of doing that.

Sonic toothbrush vibration induces blood clot ?

Whilst using a Philips sonic toothbrush I suffered a stroke . Analysis of the injury suggests vibration of the toothbrush may have been the cause. I wondered if anybody else had experienced similar problems.

Suzanne

We're sorry to hear of your problems.

As an initial reply, we're unfamiliar with a suggested causal relationship between the use of a sonic toothbrush and cerebrovascular accidents (stroke).

The first places we thought of as potential resources for information were:
The FDA (www.fda.gov)
PubMed (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed), the most complete database of abstracts for published medical research.

We searched both websites to no avail.

As we continued our web search, we did stumble across a comment on this page where the poster suggests that possibly the vigorous action of a powered toothbrush (any type) might overstimulate persons with "compromised intracranial dynamics".

The assumption here by us (dentists, not physicians) is that the phrase "compromised intracranial dynamics" might include a person predisposed for a stroke (we don't really know).

Best of luck with your recovery.

Sonic toothbrush vibration induces blood clot ?

Thank you very much for your help. I appreciate your guidance.

Philips Sonicare 31000 vs 62000 oscillations

It's 31,000 vibrations per minute and not 62,000. What Philips is doing here is (to put it mildly) misleading.

A vibration is once back *and* once forth, and that' s it. Irrespective of whether the vibration is straight or diagonal in space.

What Philips marketing has done here is that they have redefined a vibration into back *or* once forth.

So they count *half* vibrations instead of counting *full* vibrations like any other manufacturer, and like every other person in the world.

If you have a piano, you can check it yourself:
62,000 vibrations per minute is just over 1000 per second, and that's the three-line C:
[Admin: 2nd C above Middle C has a frequency of 1046.5 hz.]

31,000 oscillations per minute are just over 500 per second, and that's equivalent to the two-line C.
[Admin: 1st C above Middle C has a frequency of 523.25 hz.]

Hold the toothbrush next to the piano and let it run, checking with which piano key the tone matches.

There you have the correct vibrations per second (or minute), no matter what marketing lies Philips is propagating.

[Admin: Thank you for contributing this explanation David.]

Just to clarify ...

Admin: Just to clarify, David is making the point that Sonicare is using non convention units and terminology in their promotional materials (no one writing a scientific paper would use the terms they use). And as such, there seems to be an implication that their products vibrate at a higher frequency than they do. The actual number (the actual tone that a running Sonicare creates) is around 260hz, which is Middle C on a piano.
We do the math on our How sonic toothbrushes work page.

Clean vs white mode

Hi. Excellent website . I have the sonic care diamondclean toothbrush. In your article you describe the whitening function has just a longer duration to the clean mode. In my experience there is a definite difference in how the toothbrush vibrates in the white mode compare to the clean mode. The brush head in white mode seems to vibrate more in amplitude then the clean mode. I believe this is intentional and causes more brushing and thus more whitening. I believe however the whitening mode increases whitening at the expense of cleaning.

* Comment notes.

PJ

We think what we state above on this page about modes and settings explains why it's our stance that we don't value Sonicare brushing options, other than of course the 31,000 strokes/min Clean mode.

Brush intensity

Upon speaking to Philips regarding Sonicare 3 series HX3361/02 and Healthy White HX6731/02. Trying to get how low, med, high on 3 series compares to Healthy White sen, clean/white, clean. I was told told they match up the same.....every choice has 31,000 brush strokes per minute but just vary with intensity ....and that is what trying to get answer....what are the intensities?

* Comment notes.

Confusion

Here's a link to a publication from the branch of Philips Sonicare in Germany. It discusses the modes of a Flexcare brush and how changing their intensity settings affects them.

On the Healthywhite, Clean and Clean/White will both involve a 31,000 strokes/min action.
With the 3 Series, according to the publication, using it on the middle intensity setting should be similar to Sensitive mode on the Healthywhite.

Intensities

THANK YOU. So bottom line it seems like the Series 3 may have one lower intensity than the Healthy White.....how low still don't know but seems like the sens on the Healthy White compares to med on Series 3.

"May" is probably the best

"May" is probably the best word to use. To be perfectly honest, we're not entirely sure.

We went back and asked one of Sonicare's online representatives and the quote from them was: "However, we do not have exact equations available to define intensity at each level."

brushing intensity

Is there a relationship between "sensitive" mode on some brushes and low or medium "intensity" on Series 3. Fewer strokes/min? Also, please confirm that only "clean" mode, i.e. full bore 31,000 strokes /min, accomplishes the "fluid dynamic" cleaning - or does sensitive &/or med/low intensity just have less?? My concern centers around abrasive notching of the root surface. Thanks

* Comment notes.

Gary

In regard to intensity settings, there's a similar question here that might shed some light on this issue for you.

Yes, the reduced power modes are a lower brushstrokes/minute brushing action.
As testament of this, over the years we noticed that every Sonicare manual we've seen clearly states something similar to: "When the Sonicare is used in clinical studies, the default 2-minute Clean mode must be selected."
To us this is evidence that this setting represents the most effective cleaning action the brush can make and non-31,000 strokes/min modes are inferior. (They also state the EasyStart must be deactivated, which is another lower-power setting.)

The non-contact cleaning action of a Sonicare is dependent on the way it agitates the fluids surrounding the teeth. As such, you'd have to assume that lower-power setting creates a lesser non-contact cleaning effect. But whether this relationship curve is linear or exponential in shape, we don't know.

Don't overlook the fact that the vast majority of cleaning accomplished by any type of electric is due to bristle-to-tooth contact. The effectiveness of non-contact brushing comes in at a very distant 2nd.

Also, take a look at this abstract (PubMed.com)
This paper is hardly new nor the definitive word on this subject, but notice how it states that the pressure applied when brushing is a significant factor in causing dentinal wear (which equates to root wear, abrasion). Opting for the most effective brushing mode and being extremely conscious of the amount of pressure you are using might make an acceptable compromise.

BURST

I see this was updated this year (2018). Have you looked into the BURST toothbrush at all? I has 33,000 vibrations per minute... more than the Sonicare toothbrush.

* Comment notes.

GL

No, this page really is about Sonicares and their line up. We're not sure we could ever provide an opinion about all of the other sonic toothbrushes made. We have enough difficulty just keeping the Sonicares straight.
What we say on this page about features should be easy enough to translate to any other sonic brush when evaluating their features.

We're not necessarily impressed with the 33,000 hz vs. 31,000 hz argument. As is mentioned on this page, most all Sonicares deliver the same frequency, but the apparent power of the brushes seems to vary throughout the line (that's why we don't like many low-end Sonicares).

We'll also mention that based on frequency alone, it would have to be assumed that ultrasonic toothbrushes (which vibrate in the range of 1,600,000 hz) would be vastly superior to sonic ones. But there's no scientific research that has ever shown this.

HX6211 is US only

The HX6211 model seems to be US only. The nearest I can find in the EU is the HX6231, which seems to come with Quadpacer. Philips, what a bunch of idiots - make a great brush and then annoy the hell out of everyone with two annoying features which I am putting some serious effort into trying to *avoid*.

* Comment notes.

Private

Look for a FlexCare model in your country. Then Google around for its user manual. Check to see if with this line you can't deactivate the QuadPacer. (You should be able to on the FlexCare+ and FlexCare Platinum Connected)

Healthywhite+ Quadpacer can be deactivated

I just got a Healthywhite+ from Amazon and I wanted to let you know that the Quadpacer can be deactivated by pressing and holding the intensity level down button while it's on the charger. Thanks for all the good information on this site!

* Comment notes.

Thanks SL

We've confirmed what you report and have edited our pages accordingly.

* Comments marked with an asterisk, along with their associated replies, have either been edited for brevity/clarity, or have been moved to a page that's better aligned with their subject matter, or both. If relocated, the comment and its replies retain their original datestamps, which may affect the chronology of the page's comments section.


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