Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Tested and Reviewed

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The 3 Series Gum Health is our most recommended electric toothbrush in the Philips Sonicare range. It offers the most useful features at a price point not too dramatically different from the entry-level models.

Join us as we examine everything you could possibly want to know about the 3 Series Gum Health.

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health

Unboxing the Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health

If you were to open the box of your brand new 3 Series electric toothbrush, this is what you would find inside:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Electric Toothbrush and accessories that come in the box

Let’s break it down:

  • 3 Series Gum Health electric toothbrush handle.
  • Gum health brush head
  • Brush head protective cap
  • Travel Case
  • Charging stand
  • Instruction manual

In the box, you will also find some discount coupons offering savings on brush heads and other Philips Sonicare products as well a warranty card.

The warranty card prompts you to register your 3 Series toothbrush online. You will be rewarded with an extra 6 months of warranty just for doing so, extending the warranty period to two years and six months.

3 Series Gum Health Handle

At first glance, you could easily mistake the 3 Series for the 2 series Plaque Control ((reviewed here). They look incredibly similar. It’s not until you compare the two side by side that you will notice slight differences:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series gum health electric toothbrush compared with 2 series plaque control side by side

By and large, the two electric toothbrushes are the same. The main difference is that the 3 Series has three different speed settings. The indicators on the front of the handle represent each one.

The 3 Series is also slightly thinner than the 2 Series but unless you compare the two side by side, it is likely you wouldn’t notice the difference.

Now let’ take a closer look at the handle of the 3 Series.

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Electric Toothbrush Handle

The handle is the workhorse of the electric toothbrush. Beneath the outer casing hides the motor responsible for causing the brush heads to vibrate.

To kick the motor into action you will have to turn your 3 Series Gum Health on. And that is down with a quick press of the power button:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Electric toothbrush power button close up

Just like the 2 Series Plaque Control, the 3 Series uses a Green colored rubber switch for the power button.

But unlike the 2 Series, the button performs two different functions:

1. On/Off – It’s as simple as it sounds

2. Brushing Speed Cycles through the brushing intensity modes.

The 3 Series Gum Health comes with three brushing intensity modes (low medium and high). While high is the same speed found on every Sonicare electric toothbrush, the medium and low-speed settings provide a gentler brushing experience and are better suited for those of you with sensitive teeth and gums.

Further down the front of the handle are three small indicator lights:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Electric toothbrush brushing speeds and indicators

Each of the lights represents one of the three different speed settings and will light up depending on the intensity you select.

If you look closely at the above picture you will also be able to make out a small silver colored battery indicator further down the handle. This indicator will light up according to the amount of charge remaining on your electric toothbrush.

Peeking underneath the handle you will find a small hole:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health electric toothbrush underside of handle

This hole is what stops your electric toothbrush from falling off the charging base. The hole slides over the small plastic rod on the base, holding it in place.

Printed around the hole are some basic details on the 3 Series Plaque control including the model, type of battery inside (Lithium-ion) and the manufacturing country, China.

All Sonicare electric toothbrushes are made in China. But do not be fooled into thinking that this makes Sonicare’s inferior to the German made Oral-B. In all our testing we found that the Sonicare build quality was equal to that of the Oral-B range and in some instances even surpassed it.

If you flipping the Plaque Control handle over reveals the rear of the handle:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health electric toothbrush rear of handle

The only thing of note on the rear is the small raised bumps molded into the plastic. The raised bumps line up with where your fingers wrap around the handle and add some much-needed grip to the 3 Series. While they are not nearly as effective as a rubber grip, they are better than leaving the rear completely smooth.

Poking out the top of the handle is a small metal shaft:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health electric toothbrush metal shaft that connects to brush heads

This is the part of the 3 Series handle that the brush heads attach to. Simply slide the brush head over the shaft and it will snap into place. A gentle tug is all that is required to remove it again.

By using interchangeable brush heads you are able to share the Gum Health handle with other members of your family.

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Brush Head

The Brush head is where the 3 Series get’s the name “Gum Health from. The Gum health brush head is one of Philips Sonicare’s softest brush heads available. While it has the same shape as the Plaque Control, the bristles are much less coarse.

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health brush head

Combined with the ability to decrease the brushing intensity and the end result is the gentlest Sonicare Toothbrush you can buy at this price point.

If you find this brush head isn’t right for you then you can swap it out with any one of 9 different brush heads from the Philips Sonicare snap-on range, sold separately. For more information on the different brush heads, be sure to check out our experience testing different Philips Sonicare brush heads.

One thing we love about Philips Sonicare brush heads is that they all come with a plastic protective cap:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Electric toothbrush covered with plastic protective cap

The plastic cap covers the bristles when not in use and is particularly helpful for those of you who store your brush heads out in the open on your bathroom counter.

The cap protects the bristles from canned sprays like deodorant or hairspray as well as dust and other airborne particles. Since your brush heads are going spend a good time in your mouth, you are going to want to keep the bristles clean and hygienic. The brush head covers help you do just that.

Just like a regular toothbrush you are going to have to swap out your brush head once every three months. To help you remember this, the brush head features dark blue indicator bristles.

With constant use, these indicator bristles will fade and turn clear at around three months of use, reminding you to change your brush head.

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Travel Case

The 3 Series Gum Health is the first electric toothbrush in the Philips Sonicare range to offer a carry case. If you travel for work or just like to go on vacation then the carry case will allow you to keep your 3 Series handle and brush heads in one neat space when not in use.

When you first take the case out of the box we were hit with a strong plastic smell. We simply left the case to air and within a day the odor was mostly gone.

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Electric toothbrush white travel case

The case itself is as plain as it gets. The all-white design did have a habit of scuffing and marking on the exterior but satisfactorily kept the Gum Health free from dirt and grime.

Located on the bottom of the case are two small vents. The vents allow air to circulate through the case even when the lid is closed, preventing mold and mildew from forming on brush heads that are still damp.

Inside the case you will find room for the 3 Series handle and two brush heads:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Electric toothbrush sitting inside travel case

We were able to squeeze an additional two brush heads for a total of four inside and still get the list shut. However, due to the lack of a dedicated spot, the two extra brush heads rattle and bounce around inside the case.

The interior surface of the travel case has a glossy coating that makes it much easier to wipe down than the outside. A sponge and some warm soapy water were all that we needed to remove even the most stubborn dried toothpaste from inside the case.

Charging the Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health

Just like the rest of the Philips Sonicare range (with the exception of the PowerUp) the 3 Series has a rechargeable battery hidden inside the handle. In order to charge it you will need to use the charging base that comes in the box.

The charging base is compatible with the vast majority of Philips Sonicare electric toothbrushes. Good news for families that have more than one Sonicare toothbrush, you won’t need to keep more than one charger on hand, cluttering up your bathroom counter.

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Electric toothbrush battery charger stand

The charger itself is little more than a lump of plastic with a small rod or nib sticking out of the top. The rod slides into the hole on the base of the 3 Series handle, holding it in position while charging.

If you flip the charger base over you will immediately notice three small rubber feet to prevent the charger from sliding around your bathroom counter. Printed in the middle of the base is some good news for those of you who travel internationally:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health Electric toothbrush underneath battery charger

If you look closely at the above picture you may just be able to make out the words line that says:

100 – 240V

The charger can work on any voltage that falls between this range. This is also known as multi-voltage and allows you to charge your 3 Series in almost any country in the world. Just make sure you purchase a travel adapter to fit the unusual shaped power outlets on your trip.

The 3 Series is the first toothbrush in the Sonicare range to come with a Lithium-ion battery inside. The battery will charge wirelessly the moment you place the toothbrush handle down on the charger.

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health electric toothbrush sitting on battery charger stand

The moment your 3 Series hits the charger, the small battery battery indicator will begin to flash green. The light will stop flashing once the battery has completely charged.

The indicator light gives you a rough indication of how much charge is remaining in the 3 Series Battery.

When in use, a green light means the electric toothbrush is fully charged and a yellow light means the battery is about to die. The light simply turns off when it is between high and low charge. Definitely not the easiest to read indicator but it’s better than nothing.

It can take up to 48 hours to fully charge the Lithium-ion battery, but you will be able to use it prior to being fully charged. The 3 Series has been designed to be placed back on charge when in use, so the battery is always full when needed.

The Lithium-ion battery of the 3 Series runs for longer than the NiMH battery of the 2 Series. We were able to get up to 21 days brushing (morning and night) before it completely die on us. That’s a full week longer than the 2 Series.

Testing the 3 Series Gum Health

When the time came for testing I called in some extra help. Four additional testers and myself tested the Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health. The following contains summaries of our experience using the toothbrush.

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health electric toothbrush held in right hand

If at all possible, the 3 Series is incredibly even better weighted than the 2 Series. The long slender shaped handle and slots nicely into either your right or left hand.

Pressing down on the power button sees the toothbrush burst into life. The sound is best described as a high pitched hum. While it’s definitely not as noisy as your blow dryer or electric shaver, it is still loud enough to wake someone sleeping in the next room.

While the 3 Series does only have one brushing mode (clean) it does allow you to adjust just how intensive the clean is. Pressing the power button moments after turning the toothbrush on will allow you to cycle through the three brushing speeds.

You will be able to identify which speed you have selected by glancing at the indicator lights on the 3 Series handle:

Philips Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health electric toothbrush brushing speed intensity indicator lights
  • 1 light – Gentle
  • 2 lights – Moderate
  • 3 lights – Standard (31,000 brush strokes/minute).

Once you have selected your preferred speed you can begin brushing your teeth. Unlike Oral-B electric toothbrushes, the 3 Series will remember the setting you have chosen even after you turn the power off.

Hidden inside the handle are three different features that come into play when the power is turned on. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Note: The following features are also found on the higher models in the Philips Sonicare range of electric toothbrushes

1. Easy-Start

Some people find the rapid vibrations given off by Sonicare Toothbrushes take a while to get used to. Brushing with the toothbrush for the first time can cause a slightly unpleasant ticklish feeling in some people. After repeated brushing sessions your mouth will begin to desensitize to this new sensation.

To make the transition simpler, the 2 Series features an Easy-Start mode. Over the first 14 brushes the toothbrush will slowly increase in power until it is brushing at the full 31,000 brush strokes per minute, easing you into the full powered sensation.

Easy-Start is only in operation for the first 14 brushing sessions.

Now I must mention that all testers including myself have previously used Sonicare electric toothbrushes. So already being used to the sensation we chose to disable the Easy-Start feature following the instructions set out in the user manual.

But I do remember my first time using a Sonicare (the Essence) and I was very appreciative of this feature. I initially found the vibrations much too ticklish and jarring. The Easy-Start was a great help in getting used to the sensations and without it I probably wouldn’t have persisted with the Sonicare toothbrush.

All testers agreed that if the vibrations don’t affect you (and for many of you they won’t) then you are better off simply disabling it.

2. QuadPacer

It’s no secret that dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for a minimum of two minutes. But when it comes down to it, reaching two minutes of brushing feels like it takes forever and many of you will give up long before this time.

The 2 Series has a handy feature that with proper use not only guarentees you will brush for the full two minutes, but clean every part of your mouth as well.

The QuadPacer is a built in timer that causes the 2 Series to briefly pause and sound a tone each time 2 minutes has passed. The timer gets it’s name from the way in which Philips Sonicare suggests you brush your teeth.

If you split your mouth into quarters and spend 30 seconds brushing each, then you will have effectively brushed your entire mouth for the recommended two minutes.

I split my mouth into the following quarters:

  1. Brush left half of top teeth for 30 seconds
  2. Brush right half of top teeth for 30 seconds
  3. Brush left half of bottom teeth for 30 seconds
  4. Brush right half of bottom teeth for 30 seconds

By focusing on a small section of your mouth for 30 seconds you can really give each section a really good clean before the QuadPacer alerts you to move on to the next.

While testers agreed that this brushing style took some time to get used to, the QuadPacer was a great tool to ensure you brushed your entire mouth.


The SmarTimer is a built in timer that automatically turns the 2 Series off after two minutes. If you want to brush longer you will need to press the power button again to turn the toothbrush back on.

This feature was the one that our testers simply couldn’t agree upon.

One tester commented:

SmarTimer? More like DumbTimer. I prefer to brush longer than two minutes since this allows me time to focus on my dental restoration, an area that catches plaque and is tricky to clean. Turning the toothbrush back on after two minutes got old real quick.

However other testers loved it. One tester remarked:

Two minutes of teeth brushing seems to take forever and is plenty of time to clean my whole mouth. I am excited when the toothbrush finally turns off on its own.

Whether you love it or hate it, the SmarTimer is a feature that is found on all Sonicare models and cannot be disabled.

But how does it brush?

Those of you who currently use a Sonicare toothbrush will be instantly familiar with the standard 31,000 brush strokes per minute offered ins tandard clean.

For those who are new to the world of sonic toothbrushes I will quickly cover the technique, which many beginners find a little unusual at first.

Simply load up the brush head with your regular toothpaste, wet as usual and place the bristles against a section of your teeth at a slight angle (roughly 45 degrees), pressing with slight pressure.

Press the power button and gently move the toothbrush back and forth the rapid vibrations will help remove the plaque not only from the center of the teeth but also along the gum line and between the teeth (remember to floss after for best results).

The trick is to let the toothbrush do most of the work. While this may take some time for you to get used to, especially if you are swapping over from a manual toothbrush, but before long you will be using the correct technique without thinking about it.

The clean is exceptional. Far greater than you could get from that of a manual toothbrush.

With proper technique plaque is effortlessly removed from your teeth and along your gumline. I enjoy licking my smooth teeth after each brush, it honestly feels like you have just gotten your teeth cleaned at the dentist.

The 3 series provides a much gentler clean than that of the 2 series and if you consider your teeth and gums overly sensitive then this should be your beginning choice in the Philips Sonicare range of electric toothbrushes.

Final Thoughts

In our opinion the 3 Series Gum Health is the best electric toothbrush of the lot. Catering to both sensitive and regular brushers and delivering the same 31,000 brush strokes per minute as higher end models, there no real reason to spend more money on an electric toothbrush than this.

This electric toothbrush is only $10 more than the entry level 2 Series. And for that you get a Lithium-ion battery capable of holding an extra weeks worth of charge and the option of three brushing speeds. It’s more than worth the small leap in price.

Highly Recommended.