This past summer, second-year dental students at Marquette Dental School learned that a simple trip to your local butcher can help improve your suturing skills. Towards the end of our “Introduction to Oral Surgery” class this July, our instructor presented us a sim lab full of pig feet! After having lectures the week prior on proper suturing techniques, we were given the chance to practice the different techniques on our very own pig feet. We all grabbed a partner, a scalpel, suturing supplies, and hesitantly reached into a bucket for a foot. Our instructor, Dr. Rieger, demonstrated the incisions and stitches to us over the computer monitors, and then let us loose. We practiced a simple interrupted suture, a simple continuous suture (also called a baseball suture), a figure 8 stitch and a horizontal mattress suture.
When watching an experienced oral surgeon demonstrate these techniques to us I think a lot of us thought it would be a relatively simple exercise that morning. But halfway into the first exercise I realized how much practice is needed to quickly and efficiently place sutures. A few class periods prior to this sim lab day we had practiced placing sutures on a chamois leather cloth. I think we all had mastered the art of sutures on the cloth but were pleasantly surprised to see how different the pig foot was. It was much more difficult to pull the needle through the pig flesh and have it be the proper distance from the incision we made. Achieving proper spacing of some of the sutures was difficult as well. Luckily there was enough room around the foot for a lot of practice! By the end of the exercise the pig foot may have looked like it went through a war zone but we all had an amazing opportunity to practice proper suture placement!
This exercise helped increase our confidence and skills as we get ready to do these sutures on our future patients. I believe we are much more excited about our upcoming oral surgery rotations now that we have had this simulation experience. I recommend this exercise to anyone who is looking for a future in oral surgery or who is just looking for more practice.
Have you practiced dentistry techniques on pigs’ feet in your labs? How are your instructors demonstrating suturing techniques in your preclinical labs? Leave your comments below!
~Emily Baker, Marquette ’16