Diflunisal and lornoxicam are currently available non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that have been shown to be effective to various degrees in pain relief when administered either pre-emptively or postoperatively. The pre-emptive analgesic efficacy of diflunisal 1000 mg was compared with that of lornoxicam 16 mg in 40 ASA I patients undergoing surgical removal of bilateral impacted third molars. The impacted third molar teeth on one side were removed at the first surgical appointment using one of the two drug regimens being assessed and the teeth on the contralateral side were removed at a second appointment using the alternate drug regimen; all operations were performed by the same surgeon. Acetaminophen up to 2000 mg daily was provided as rescue medication. The postoperative rescue analgesic consumption was recorded and pain scores were evaluated with a visual analogue scale at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 24 h postoperatively. No statistically significant differences were found between groups with respect to rescue analgesic consumption and postoperative pain scores. Pre-emptive administration of both NSAIDs proved to be effective in the management of pain following the surgical removal of impacted third molar teeth. © 2006 International Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.