In discussing permeability, we are describing one of the fundamental barrier functions of oral mucosa. Despite assumptions to the contrary, the oral mucosa is not a uniformly, highly permeable tissue like gut, but shows regional variation. The keratinized areas, such as gingiva and hard palate, are least permeable and nonkeratinized lining areas are most permeable. This variation appears to reflect differences in the types of lipid making up the intercellular permeability barrier in the superficial layers of the epithelium. Differences in permeability may be related to regional differences in the prevalence of certain mucosal diseases and can be utilized to advantage for local and systemic drug delivery.
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