The goal of this review is to introduce the biomaterials community to the emerging field of self-healing materials, and also to suggest how one could utilize and modify self-healing approaches to develop new classes of biomaterials. A brief discussion of the in vivo mechanical loading and resultant failures experienced by biomedical implants is followed by presentation of the self-healing methods for combating mechanical failure. If conventional composite materials that retard failure may be considered zeroth generation self-healing materials, then taxonomically speaking, first generation self-healing materials describe approaches that “halt” and “fill” damage, whereas second generation self-healing materials strive to “fully restore” the prefailed material structure. In spite of limited commercial use to date, primarily because the technical details have not been suitably optimized, it is likely from a practical standpoint that first generation approaches will be the first to be employed commercially, whereas second generation approaches may take longer to implement. For self-healing biomaterials the optimization of technical considerations is further compounded by the additional constraints of toxicity and biocompatibility, necessitating inclusion of separate discussions of design criteria for self-healing biomaterials. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A:, 2011.