PURPOSE: The odontogenic keratocysts demonstrated a high recurrence rate and a biologically aggressive nature. This might be due to unknown factors inherent in the epithelium or enzymatic activity in the fibrous wall. Bcl-2 protein is characterized by its ability to inhibit apoptosis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the expression and distribution of bcl-2 in the OKCs, its possible relationship with the tumorous characteristics, such as the aggressive nature and high recurrence rate, and its usefulness to differentiate OKCs from dentigerous cysts. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Formalin fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections of 53 OKCs, and 44 dentigerous cyst were immunohistochemically analyzed quantitatively for the immunoreactivity of the bcl-2 protein with i-solution. RESULTS: More Bcl-2 expression was observed in the OKCs (mean34.387%) than dentigerous cyst (mean11.144%) with statistical significance (P<0.001). Seventeen and 15 of the 32 OKCs in this study showed positivity in the basal layer and basal/suprabasal layers, respectively. In dentigerous cyst, 2 of 3 showed positivity in the basal cell layer. CONCLUSION: Considering that bcl-2 over expression may lead to the increased survival of epithelial cells, this study demonstrated a possible relationship between the aggressive nature of OKC and the intrinsic growth potential of its lining epithelium. Furthermore, the basal/suprabasal distribution of bcl-2 positive cells was observed in some OKCs, which might have a significant impact on the behavior of cysts. The bcl-2 expression of OKCs can be useful for differentiating OKCs from dentigerous cysts.