An oral irrigator including a handle through which fluid flows to a tip. Fluid flows to the tip during irrigate mode, and fluid flow may be interrupted by selecting a pause mode. The handle includes a mechanically controlled actuator for selecting the pause mode. The actuator may include a rack gear operably connected to a pinion gear formed on a valve spool inside the handle. The valve spool may include a ball that blocks fluid flow to the tip during pause mode but not during irrigate mode.