Abstract This review discusses the various sequelae that arise after third molar surgery and their use for assessing the efficacy of a variety of therapeutic measures. The surgical procedure provides an opportunity to investigate onset, depth, duration and possible systemic effects of local anaesthetic solutions. Also, the anxiety which often accompanies such surgery lends itself to the appraisal of different anxiolytic agents and sedation techniques. The immediate postoperative sequelae of pain, buccal swelling and trismus provides a useful clinical model for evaluating the efficacy of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Third molar tooth sockets are susceptible to infection and this propensity enables the assessment of different antibiotic regimens. A further advantage of the third molar model is its application for crossover studies, with the patient acting as their own control. Very few surgical procedures afford this facility, which further adds to the value of this model in clinical pharmacology.