Distraction osteogenesis is becoming the treatment of choice for the surgical correction of hypoplasias of the craniofacial skeleton. Its principle is based on the studies of Ilizarov, who showed that osteogenesis can be induced if bone is expanded (distracted) along its long axis at the rate of 1 mm per day. This process induces new bone formation along the vector of pull without requiring the use of a bone graft. The technique also provides the added benefit of expanding the overlying soft tissues, which are frequently deficient in these patients. This article reviews the authors' 11-year clinical and research experience with mandibular distraction osteogenesis. It highlights the indications and contraindications of the technique and emphasizes the critical role that basic science research has played in its evolution.