Abstract Recent studies have revealed that ozone ultraviolet (UVO) illumination of titanium (Ti) implants improves bone–implant anchorage by altering the physico-chemical and immune activating properties of the titanium dioxide (TiO2) layer. In the present rat tibia model, the authors compared the early events of inflammation and bone formation around UVO-treated Ti and complement activating immunoglobin g (IgG)-coated Ti. Machined Ti and machined Ti coated with a physical vapour-deposited Ti layer were used as references. Screw-shaped test and reference implants were implanted into rat tibia and harvested after 1, 7 and 28days. Messenger RNA expression of implant adhered cells and peri-implant tissue ∼250μm from the surface were subsequently analysed with regard to IL-1β, TNF-α, osteocalcin, cathepsin K, BMP-2 and PDGF. Separate implants were retrieved after 7 and 28days for removal torque measurements, and histological staining and histomorphometric analysis of bone area and bone-to-implant contact. While enhanced expression of inflammatory markers, TNF-α and IL-1β, was observed on IgG-coated surfaces throughout the observation time, UVO-treated surfaces indicated a significantly lower early inflammatory response. In the early phases (1 and 7days), the UVO-treated surfaces displayed a significantly higher expression of osteoblast markers BMP-2 and osteocalcin. In summary, complement activating Ti implants elicited a stronger inflammatory response than UVO-treated Ti, with low complement activation during the first week of healing. In spite of this, the UVO-treated Ti induced only marginally more bone growth outside the implants.