The vascularity of the oral cavity, combined with a thin epithelial lining in some areas, allows for the absorption of drugs at a rapid rate. Un-ionized drugs, such as nitro-glycerin, take advantage of these tissue characteristics and diffuse rapidly across the oral mucosa into the bloodstream. Unlike most drugs, for which the principal objective is to introduce the agent into the bloodstream rapidly, the goal of oral topical agents is to be retained in the oral cavity for as long as possible. Absorption can lead to toxic effects elsewhere in the body and a significant reduction of the free drug in the oral cavity. In most instances, the drugs used to restrain plaque levels are highly ionized and therefore are generally unable to penetrate the oral mucosa.
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