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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Thumb Sucker
August 2003

Q. I have been a thumb sucker for 24 years (I am 24 now) and have tried everything from nasty tasting remedies (which in my sleep I still will suck off) to orthodontic retainers with prongs to stop (which I will even bend back in my sleep and puncture my thumb). I have a terrible overjet now from it and can't have it fixed without stopping this habit. Can you help?

A. Thumb sucking is almost universal in children, and extremely uncommon in adults, especially to the degree you describe with severe consequences. Nearly all the website references and medical references discuss this in terms of young children. There are at least a few reports of hypnosis being helpful. Locate a behavioral psychologist to see if this would be worth a try in your situation. Here are two recent medical articles that you can obtain from the library of a hospital or medical school library for more on this topic:

Skinazi G. A psychological approach to thumbsucking. J Clin Orthod. 2000 Aug;34(8):478-81.

Ellingson SA, Miltenberger RG, Stricker JM, Garlinghouse MA, Roberts J, Galensky TL, Rapp JT. Analysis and treatment of finger sucking. J Appl Behav Anal. 2000 Spring;33(1):41-52.

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