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Suturing a pig’s foot: not your grandma’s sewing needle

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

Emily Baker

Emily is a third year dental student at Marquette University School of Dentistry. She is originally from Cleveland Ohio and completed her undergraduate education at the University of Dayton. She enjoys swimming and boating as well as most other water sports. She plans to apply for a GPR after graduation.

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1 Comment

  1. Neha Ahuja says:

    During the final year, one of the professor at our Oral Surgery Department asked us to bring goat’s tongue. Since goat is one of the easiest available at the butcher’s shop in my home country, it was easy to grab a tongue. Next day our professor asked us to practice sutures on that tongue. It was like near real experience of suturing a human tongue. This gave me confidence and during my practice at my private clinic, once I encountered a child patient who fell and bit his tongue. Suturing was the only option. It took me just ten minutes to complete the procedure. Thanks to my professor who gave us that opportunity to work on goats tongue.

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