The oral mucosa offers an interesting site for the application of dosage forms that release drugs within/throughout the oral mucosa, by assuring a high drug bioavailability for topic and systemic effects. However, the relative permeability of the oral mucosa and the washing effect related to the oral fluids and mechanical stresses must be considered in the formulation of oral dosage forms. Since a sustained drug release can be guaranteed only if dosage forms remain in contact with the oral site of absorption/application for a prolonged time, the development of mucoadhesive dosage forms is mandatory. The mucoadhesion is a complex phenomenon and the mucoadhesive bond consists of two different parts, the mucoadhesive polymers and the mucous substrate. In addition to factors related to the oral mucosa and oral environment features, the physical-chemical characteristics of mucoadhesive polymers must be also considered as factors influencing the mucoadhesive bonds. While it is not possible to modify the mucosal features or it is possible to modify or inhibit only in part certain mucosal processes, the knowledge of polymer properties influencing mucoadhesive bonds allows to modify or to control these properties in developing increasingly effective mucoadhesive systems. The aims of this review are to discuss the several mechanisms and factors behind the phenomenon of mucoadhesion with particular reference to the features of the oral environment, oral mucosa, and polymeric compounds influencing mucoadhesion process. Finally, a brief mention to the main mucoadhesive dosage forms designed for oral transmucosal drug delivery is made.
Keywords: Mucoadhesion, oral transmucosal drug delivery, dosage form, drug controlled-release, mucoadhesive polymers, oral mucosa, mucosal permeability, drug bioavailability, oral fluids, mechanical stresses.