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Preoperative treatment with controlled-release ketoprofen or diclofenac was compared in 56 out-patients, for control of postoperative dental pain, following unilateral or bilateral surgical removal of lower third molars. Six patients were excluded due to non-compliance, leaving 50 evaluable patients. Patients were assessed by the dental surgeon, on the day of the operation and one week later, prior to removal of sutures. Additionally, patients completed a daily diary during the postoperative week. Following surgery, scores for graded dental pain, consumption of paracetamol, incidence of dental bleeding, dysphagia, sleep disturbance and trismus were similar for the two treatment groups. However, median pain scores were consistently elevated in the diclofenac group over those seen with the ketoprofen group. The four adverse events reported were all minor and posed no problem to patient management.