Oral-B brushing modes explained -

Which ones are important to have? | 3D vs. 2D brushing movement.

This page outlines the various brushing modes you have to choose from when you use your Oral-B rechargeable toothbrush. This includes:

  • Daily Clean,  Deep Clean,  Pro Clean,  Sensitive,  Whitening,  Massage  and  Tongue Cleaner  modes.

We outline what each of these different modes does. Which ones we feel are important to have. And explain the difference between Oral-B's 2D vs. 3D brushing action, and why having 3D is better.

[Note: None of the information on this page applies to the (discontinued) Oral-B Pulsonic toothbrush.]

A) Oral-B's 2D vs. 3D brushing motion.

When picking out a rechargeable toothbrush model, probably the most important thing you need to understand is the difference between Oral-B's 3D and 2D brushing action, and why it's so important that your brush has the former.

We'll start off by explaining the 2D movement.


Oral-B 2D brushing.

Animation of Oral-B '2D' brushing motion.

Oral-B's 2D brushing action generates a back-and-forth oscillate-rotate motion.

a) 2D brushing action.

This is the more basic of the two brush head motions.
  • This is a simple "rotary" brushing action. One where the bristles of the brush alternate back and forth as they scrub the user's teeth.
  • The term "2D" is used because Oral-B categorizes this as an "oscillating-rotating" motion.

From the standpoint of removing dental plaque, this design is effective. But it can be improved upon.

Oral-b 3D brushing.

Animation of Oral-B's 3D oscillating/rotating/pulsating brushing motion.

Oral-B's 3D brushing action generates a back-and-forth oscillate-rotate, and also pulsating, brushing motion.

b) 3D brushing.

As an advancement in design, Oral-B engineers have incorporated a high-frequency "pulsing" action into their 2D brushing motion. They refer to this as "3D" movement (oscillating-rotating + pulsating).
Why is 3D important?
The addition of a high-frequency (sonic) pulsing action is significant because it agitates the liquids that surround the user's teeth and creates what's termed a "non-contact" brushing effect. This is an effect where dental plaque is disrupted at distances beyond where the toothbrush's bristles actually touch (yes, beyond).
Adding a pulsing action isn't really something new that Oral-B thought up. This is the same general idea that sonic toothbrushes brought to the market place in the early 1990s.

[Non-contact (sonic) brushing is an interesting phenomenon and we describe how it works here.]

Sonic brushes were the first to introduce non-contact tooth cleaning.

Animation of the fluid-dynamics cleaning action of a sonic toothbrush.

The effect is due to the way the brush head pulsates.

Non-contact brushing has its limitations.
It's important to understand that the non-contact cleansing that a brush creates is only of secondary importance. Overall, the primary plaque removing ability of both sonic and 3D Oral-B's is due to the way their bristles directly scrub against tooth surfaces.
And we must also point out that the clinical importance of this phenomenon is debated and still being investigated and understood.

But we will point out that Oral-B evidently thought it was important enough to incorporate into their highest-end products. And overall, we think this is a significant feature to have and have made it one of the criteria for toothbrushes making our Best Oral-B toothbrushes list.

20,000 vs. 40,000 pulses per minute.

One last thing you need to know about Oral-B's 3D brushing movement (oscillating-rotating + pulsating) is that some models can generate up to 40,000 pulses per minute, whereas others only 20,000. (In our all-models review we specifically state which type of action is created by which toothbrushes).

You can think of the latter as a lower power setting. And because at only 20,000 pulses per minute these brushes create less agitation of the fluids surrounding teeth, they produce less non-contact brushing effect.

For this reason, we think it's best to only consider Oral-B 3D toothbrushes that can generate 40,000 pulses per minute. And, in fact, for our Best Oral-B's list this was exactly the criteria.

B) Oral-B brushing modes and settings.

a) Daily Clean - The most important brushing setting.

The default brushing mode on an Oral-B model is usually labeled "Daily Clean." And we think those two points alone tell you quite a lot about it.

  • As your brush's default mode, you can assume that this is the one that Oral-B expects will be (should be) used the most.
  • Its name alone implies that Oral-B thinks that this mode makes the right choice for the task of cleaning your teeth each day.
This is likely the only brushing mode you really need.
Daily Clean is the mode where everything we've discussed above comes together. This is the one where your brush just runs at full-speed, creating the best brushing action it can (either 2D or 3D movement, depending on the model).
And for this reason, it can be considered to be your brush's most efficient and effective plaque removing setting. And as such, for the vast majority of users, we think that Daily Clean makes the best (full time) choice (to the extent that we don't see much need for using any other mode).

How Daily Clean varies by model.

As discussed above, not all Oral-B electrics have been created equal. Here's a breakdown of the different variations of Daily Clean mode that are featured by different models:
  • Daily Clean - 3D brushing motion, 40,000 pulses per minute. This is the best brushing action that any Oral-B product has to offer. It's found on what could be described as the mid-priced to high-end models (the 8000, 7000, 6000, 5000 and 3000 models in our all-models list).
  • Daily Clean - 3D brushing motion, 20,000 pulses per minute. This is a lesser version of the above. The 1000 models in our list feature this brushing action.
  • Daily Clean - 2D brushing motion (no pulses per minute). This is a primitive brushing action that's only featured on Oral-B's low-end models (the Vitality and Pro 500 brushes in our list). This motion creates no non-contact brushing effect, which is a big disadvantage.
As mentioned above, if your quest is simply to purchase the best Oral-B electric plaque remover possible, then you should only consider a 3D brushing motion/40,000 pulses-per-minute model.

Pictures of Oral b rechargeable electric toothbrushes.

Our affiliate links can be used to shop  Oral-b electric toothbrushes  on  Amazon.com  or  Walmart.com

Tip:  There is no question that the most effective Oral-b's are the ones that feature their 3D brushing motion/40,000 pulses-per-minute brushing action. In the lineup of models, that would be the Pro 3000 and above.

Other brushing modes:

The Oral-B electrics that feature 3D brushing motion with 40,000 pulses per minute typically come with some assortment of the following brushing modes.

b) Deep Clean mode.

This brushing setting creates a brushing action that's the exact equivalent of Daily Clean. The difference is that when your brush is set to Deep Clean the brush's brushing/quadrant timer is lengthened to 3 minutes instead of just 2.

Since brushing for longer is generally a good thing, if you purchase a brush that features this setting, using it usually makes a good idea.

Do you really need this mode?

We don't think we would buy a particular model just to get the Deep Clean feature. After all, anyone could duplicate it simply by using their brush in Daily Clean mode, and then once its 2-minute timer has signaled, just continuing on brushing (on their own, untimed) for an additional 1 minute.

c) Pro Clean mode.

Oral-B states that Pro Clean operates the toothbrush's head at a faster rate (higher frequency), as compared to other brushing modes.

Do you really need this mode?

It seems logical to assume that faster brush head movement would create a somewhat superior brushing action. However, we can't find any information on the Oral-B website or in their promotional materials that seem to promote or support this stance.

Since Oral-B evidently assigns no special value to Pro Clean, we won't either. We wouldn't buy a specific model just to get this mode. If the brush we were using had it, we would probably use it as a substitute for Daily Clean.

d) Sensitive mode.

This setting simulates the action of Daily Clean but at a lower overall speed.

This is not a mode created for optimal plaque removal. It's a second-tier, reduced-power setting for those who can't tolerate the action of their brush at its Daily Clean (or Deep Clean) setting. If you decide to use it, just realize you're not getting the full benefit of using an Oral-B electric.

Do you really need this mode?

It depends. The Sensitive mode might be useful for people who need a "break-in" period of a week or two when they first get their brush. Aged or debilitated persons may find this is the only setting they can tolerate.

e) Whitening / 3D White mode.

In this setting, the toothbrush alternates its speed (cycles of faster, then slower), which Oral-B claims helps to polish off tooth surface staining.

Do you really need this mode?

This claim seems to suggest that using a brush in a mode that alternates between full-power and a lower setting is substantially more effective than just using the brush continually at full-power (Daily Clean).

We specifically searched for research on which this claim might be based (both on Oral-B websites and published dental literature in general). We didn't come up with any information to share.

f) Massage mode.

On some models, this setting is called Gum Care. It's another alternating speed mode. Oral-B says it's designed to stimulate and massage the user's gums.

Do you really need this mode?

If you're going to use this mode in addition to brushing normally with Daily Clean and also flossing, then great. But using this mode as a replacement for either could easily be considered to be a poor oral health decision.

g) Tongue cleaner.

A brushing action that Oral-B feels is useful for brushing your tongue.
Do you really need this mode?
Cleaning your tongue is important. However, we would think that you'd be better served by using the methods we discuss on this page.

Pictures of Oral b rechargeable toothbrushes.

Our affiliate links can be used to shop  Oral-b electric toothbrushes  on  Amazon.com  or  Walmart.com

Tip:  Beyond having more features, the higher-end Oral-b's are their more-refined models. Further down the lineup are their more value-oriented brushes. At a minimum, you should consider a Pro 3000 (and definitely not below).



Possible Mistake in Writeup ???

The writeup states:
"...the difference between Oral-B's 3D and 2D brushing action,
and why it's so important that your brush has the latter."
Instead of "THE LATTER" didn't you intend to say "THE FORMER" ?


Correction made Mel, thank you for pointing it out. As you seem to realize, that is probably the most important point to know about Oral b's.

Pro 1000

I am researching purchasing an electric toothbrush for myself and my husband along with a 12yo and 9yo.

From what I understand I would want to get the Pro 1000 since it has only 20,000 ppm and would be the preferred brush for those with sensitive teeth. Is that correct? I have heard of people switching back to a manual brush after trying an electric brush and finding it to rough on their gums. If 20,000 is for those with sensitive teeth, wouldn't I be better off getting the Pro 1000 rather than the Pro 3000?


* Comment notes.


You should consult with your dentist or hygienist before making a choice. Here's why:

It would be expected that the "typical" adult user can easily tolerate a 40,000/3D brushing action. However, in your case you anticipate that you cannot. The question then becomes why?

Is it because your gum health is poor? If so, the less effective brushing action of a 20,000/3D model might clean more effectively than you have been when using a regular toothbrush. But generally speaking you could expect a greater level of gum health improvement when using a model with a more effective brushing action.

The idea is that as the health of your gums improves they become less sensitive (at least for many people, that's one reason why Sonicare models offer their Easy-Start feature). And if all of this first scenario is true for your situation, you might purchase a 3000 model and initially use it on the Sensitive setting. Then later on when your gums are in better health, switch to its full-power mode. Maintaining a higher level of gum health should be easier over the long term when using the better brush set to its most effective mode.

If it is the touch of the brush to your teeth themselves that causes your sensitivity, then this is an issue that your dentist should be addressing (in cases where a person's teeth are otherwise in good health, simply using a toothpaste for "sensitive teeth," or else fluoride applications, might be all the treatment that's needed).

However, if you've already sought treatment for this matter from your dentist to no avail, then possibly a lower speed brushing action must be used. But don't choose a second-tier brush without knowing that a solution doesn't exist.

So, some questions need to be answered. It seems possibly only your dentist or hygienist can answer them and give you the proper advice. To us, the 3000 seems the better choice (more options, although admittedly more expensive). But like you've stated, it's not if there's no chance you can make use of its more powerful brushing setting.

mode selection

Your page states: "The Pro 3000 has an on/off switch that doubles as its mode selector. The higher-end Oral-B's have a separate button for this. We don't see how that's a great advantage."

Actually, having a separate on/off button rather than having to cycle through a mode button to turn it off would be awesome. I use a foaming toothpaste for sensitive teeth and have to stop brushing a few times before finishing to spit out the foaming toothpaste.

My current oral b toothbrush is one of those that you have to hit the button to turn the brush off, then hit the button twice to get back to the higher brushing mode. I do this several times every morning while brushing, otherwise I get toothpaste all over the place. I can’t just momentarily take the toothbrush out of my mouth to spit out excess saliva/foam because the toothbrush will still be spinning and it gets messy. Just a quick off and then on again would be nice.

* Comment notes.


Per your explanation we absolutely get your point and it's a scenario we really hadn't considered. Thanks for posting.

Costco Professional Care 2000

A telephone call to Oral B customer service re:the two modes on the Costco Pro Care 2000 yields the following response: the Costco Professional Care 2000 has Daily Care Mode with 8800 oscillations and 40,000 pulsations. The "sensitive mode" utilizes 6500 oscillations and 30,000 pulsations.

In comparison, the sensitive mode of the Costco Pro Care 2000 should logically be better than the Oral B 1000 and the Daily Care Mode (8800 oscillations/40,000 pulsations) should equate to the Oral B 3000 Daily Care mode. I conclude that in the Daily Care Mode, the Costco 2000 model should be equivalent in cleaning efficiency to the Oral B 3000 that you so logically recommend. Any confirmatory data or comments?

* Comment notes.


Right, it's the 8800 oscillations/40,000 pulsations brushing action that's important to have, which evidently this brush has.

Oral B Oscillation Improvements

I loved your guide for which brush to choose, and I ended up choosing the Pro 3000. I went back to the shop looking for a replacement recently to buy a new one because mine was beginning to get old, and I noticed that on specifically the Oral B Black 7000 and all the models above it had an improved oscillation and pulsation speed, which essentially means a better clean. I believe it was an extra 8000 oscillations on the previous models (which was 40000 I believe). Do you think it is worth it to go for the better model just for the improved clean, even if the price would be almost double that of the Pro 3000? I would go for it, but the price of the 7000 model is a bit high. I'm honestly not too fussed about all the extra carrying cases and other bells and whistles which those models come with, I just want the cleaning. Any suggestions? Stick with the 3000, or fork out for the better cleaning 7000?

* Comment notes.


We'll preface our response by saying, our pages only cover Oral-B USA models. Possibly that is a part of the confusion here.

We called Oral-b customer support (which turned out to be an incredibly poor experience). After many phone calls and speaking to 3 separate individuals, we finally found a person who could help us.

They confirmed what our Oral-b models review page states. Both the Pro 3000 and Pro 7000 (in black) feature the same statistics: 40,000 pulses per min. and 8,800 sweeps/oscillations per min.

A fundamental premise of our pages are that we feel the only Oral-b models you should consider are those that offer their 3D, 40,000 pulses per min. and 8,800 sweeps/oscillations per min. brushing action.

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