Polymeric microparticles were fabricated from Carbopol, polycarbophil, chitosan, or Gantrez using a "water-in-oil emulsification" solvent evaporation method. Mean particle sizes, as determined by laser diffraction, were in the range 23-38 μm. Electron microscopy revealed that all microparticles were spherical and of smooth surface morphology. In pH 7.0 phosphate buffered saline, the microspheres exhibited significantly increased swelling ratios and longer half-times of swelling than the corresponding powdered polymers. The relative merits of the potential usefulness of these microspheres as formulation tools for the enhanced retention of a therapeutic entity within the oral mucosa were evaluated by in vitro mucoadhesion tests. Tensile tests showed that all microspheres under consideration were capable of adhering to porcine esophageal mucosa, with particles prepared from the poly(acrylic acid)s exhibiting greater mucoadhesive strength than those constructed from chitosan or Gantrez. However, in elution experiments involving a challenge with artificial saliva, particles of chitosan or Gantrez were retained onto mucosal tissue for longer time periods than those assembled from the poly(acrylic acid)s.