Buccal Mucosa: Why your mouth is key to fast-acting electrolytes

Apr 06, 2021

buccal mucosa digestion

SaltStick Fastchews owe their fast-acting power to the way the body absorbs electrolytes through the mouth. But what does that mean exactly?

When you visit the product description page for SaltStick Fastchews, you will see several benefits, including quick absorption, good taste, and the absence of ingredients such as GMOs or artificial sweeteners. You will also see this bullet point: “Chewable tablets provide fast absorption through buccal mucosa (tissue in mouth).” If this bullet point gives you pause, you are not alone. In this blog post, we have provided more clarity into the science of buccal mucosa absorption so that you can better understand how our products work to keep you hydrated. Essentially, buccal mucosa absorption is the absorption of nutrients through the inner lining of the cheeks and tongue, and it represents the foundation of our Fastchew product design. Below, we expound on what this means to you as an athlete.


What are buccal mucosa?

Mucosa is the scientific term for cells that make up our mucous membranes. Although there are many different types, a common factor among them is the production of mucous. Not as gross as it sounds, mucous is essential for digestion and protection against foreign objects, such as dirt and bacteria. Almost all mucosa are located within the body’s digestive system; however, the mouth also houses mucosa, and mucous cells inside the oral cavity are called “buccal mucosa” specifically. As with the other mucosa, these cells assist in digestion, meaning they can process certain nutrients and compounds by absorbing them directly into the bloodstream and skipping over the intestinal tract. It is these digestive abilities of mucosa that are behind the effectiveness of SaltStick Fastchews. Of course, we are not the only product to take advantage of this process. You have probably heard about medicines or treatments that involve “oral absorption,” which is just another term for absorbing compounds through the buccal mucosa. Popular vitamin “sprays” utilize the process as well.


What do buccal mucosa have to do with the absorption of electrolytes?

Scientists have known for more than a century that the inside lining of the mouth can absorb nutrients directly, and this knowledge has led to the creation of many fast-acting drugs, such as nitroglycerin used by heart patients. Using buccal mucosa as a delivery method has two consequences:
  • The minerals are not degraded as much by the digestive process. Because the compounds are not encountering strong stomach acids, they are absorbed in a purer form and at a higher concentration. This means that a person will have to consume less overall product to get the same benefit.
  • The minerals enter the bloodstream much more rapidly. Compounds absorbed through the stomach or small intestine usually take about 20 minutes to spread throughout the body. Because buccal mucosa absorb contents directly into the bloodstream from the mouth, the effects of these compounds usually take effect in about 5-10 minutes after consumption. For an athlete struggling to replace electrolytes on a hot day, short absorption times are key to performance success.
Do not simply take our word for it, as there have been many studies regarding buccal mucosa absorption. Relevant studies to note include:
  • AAPS PharmSciTech (2012): This article references the typically-fast onset times of pharmacological compounds absorbed orally. “This expectation is in line with the fact that the time for absorption of drugs into the oral mucosal membranes is typically short, and the residence time of a liquid in the oral cavity is short, typically in the order of 5–10 minutes.”
  • Journal of Nutrition (2001): In a review of supplements, researchers concluded that “good quality is associated with the ability to disintegrate and dissolve,” which is key to making a product bioavailable to the body. This is partly the result of buccal mucosa absorption; if a product cannot dissolve the mouth, the digestive process does not begin until the stomach.
  • Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews (1994): This review concludes that as long as the therapy contains bioavailable ingredients, oral ingestion has many benefits over swallowing, including “direct entry into the systemic circulation thereby avoiding the hepatic first pass effect and ease of administration.”

Bioavailability: As you can see above, a product's bioavailability, which measures “how much” of a product is absorbed during digestion, impacts its usefulness to the body. Highly bioavailable products can be delivered in smaller doses because a greater proportion enters the bloodstream. SaltStick Fastchews utilize highly bioavailable ingredients for this reason, meaning you need fewer of them to keep hydrated.


What does this mean for athletes?

SaltStick Fastchews have been formulated to provide electrolytes to help minimize heat stress and muscle cramping due to perspiration, in a quantity and form which your body can absorb. Five electrolytes in particular play a pivotal role in maintaining normal human muscle function: sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride. A shortage of any of these electrolytes will affect athletic performance through a range a subtle to serious side effects. When electrolyte supplies run too low, an athlete’s performance can suffer. In order to prevent this situation -- or in order to quickly mitigate this situation should it arise -- it is important to consume an electrolyte product that will act quickly to disperse the needed electrolytes throughout the body. This is the goal of SaltStick Fastchews, and everything about their design works toward the goal of fast-acting electrolyte replacement:
  • Quick absorption through the mouth: The chewable tablets melt in your mouth and are absorbed through the buccal mucosa quickly into the bloodstream so they can go to work and power your body through training or racing. To take advantage of this speed, be sure to suck on the tablet as you would a candy to allow maximum contact time in the mouth. Of course, once swollowed, the rest of the electorlyte content is absorbed through regular digestive mechanism. This is also fast, since there is no additional barrier to absorption in the stomach.
  • Fast effects: Unlike a sports drink or other product with primary absorption through ingested by the stomach, the supplementation effects of Fastchews can take effect within as little as a few minutes.
  • Bioavailable ingredients: The bioavailable ingredients help with absorption as well, reducing both the amount of time it takes the body to process the electrolytes and the total quantity of product needed to stay hydrated.

All this to say that as an athlete, if you find yourself struggling in the heat due to low electrolytes, SaltStick Fastchews can provide a quick solution.



Since introducing SaltStick Fastchews more than two years ago, we have heard great feedback from customers in all areas of endurance sports. Many times, SaltStick fans are impressed at how quickly they notice a change after they take one or two chews, along with appropriate hydration. We are always happy to hear this feedback, and if you have experienced a similar phenomenon when consuming Fastchews, now you know the secret to their fast-acting power. If you’d like to learn more about SaltStick Fastchews click here.