Functional Regulators

Amongst all the numerous removable dental braces that work on the Activator principle we find the functional regulator which is something of an anomaly because, in the oral vestibule, it consists of just wire components and plastic plates. It first appeared in 1962. Rolf Fränkel, the highly-respected and apparently honest inventor is the only one of the founding fathers of German orthodontics who made an effort to learn English and regularly appeared at European and American conferences to present his studies. This is all the more remarkable because Fränkel actually lived in the former DDR, never held a university post and never received any support from the government.

But the strikingly good results of his studies can be explained by his select choice of particularly good cases, something that was certainly not an intentional falsification but was commonplace in orthodontics up until the 1960s. The excessive claims about the benefits of the functional regulator, therefore, date back to bad methodology in studies at that time. This was why it was not possible for these results to be reproduced in the numerous clinical studies conducted by other writers. Overall, therefore, we cannot say anything different about the functional regulator than we can about the Activator; i.e. that it is a profoundly restricting, ineffective appliance. Most young patients who are treated with a functional regulator know very well, by the way, exactly how to cope with the brace, mostly by not wearing it. Treatment with a functional regulator lasts much longer than a normal procedure without actually demonstrating any significant additional benefits. The functional regulator must therefore be declared outdated and should not be used on any child today. We can however add one positive note about the writer Fränkel and that is that, during his later years, he spoke openly in private circles about the fact that, with all the possibilities that today’s fixed braces offer, he would have actually only treated some of his patients with his functional regulator. Unfortunately, this great man went the same way as all the other so-called “functional orthodontists” whose doctrines just could not be shattered by scientific knowledge.