What is the Mallampati Score?

What is the Mallampati Score?

Nov 01, 2022

Mallampati score is a scoring system named after the Indian anaesthesiologist Seshagiri Mallampati. The score helps in obstructive sleep apnea treatment in Frisco, TX, as it helps predict the sleeping disorder by scoring the amount of mouth opening to the size of the tongue. A dentist near you can rely on the Mallampati score to determine the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

It is a sleeping disorder that features a disruption of the functioning of the respiratory system. Ideally, you encounter difficulty breathing when you sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs due to a disruption in your airways. It is typically due to a collapse in the throat muscles, preventing breathability.

Sleep apnea results in repeated episodes of not breathing when you are asleep. The longer you stop breathing when sleeping, the more at risk you are of getting other health complications. Some of the issues linked to obstructive sleep apnea are:

  1. Strokes
  2. Heart attacks
  3. Diabetes
  4. Chronic insomnia
  5. Excessive daytime sleepiness
  6. Memory problems – including lack of concentration and forgetfulness
  7. Severe mood swings – can result in anxiety, stress, and depression.

Understanding the Mallampati Score Concerning Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Treating sleep apnea is a priority for sleep doctors and dentists in Frisco to overcome various health complications that could arise over time. The Mallampati score is a great addition to the physical examination process when a dentist near you evaluates your oral health. Ideally, as you open your mouth for the exam, the dentist will use the scoring system to determine the visibility of the entire soft palate relative to the size of the tongue. If the tongue is so sizeable that it obstructs the view of your soft palate and throat, you are highly likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

How Does the Mallampati Score Work?

Dental experts use the Mallampati score to evaluate the airway of the mouth. The goal is to ensure a clear view of the structures of the throat area when a patient opens the mouth while sitting up with their head in a neutral position. The test is scored from Class I to Class IV.

Class I scoring refers to a complete visualization of the soft palate, the anterior and posterior pillars, the fauces (the arched opening at the back of the mouth), and the uvula (a fleshy extension at the back of the soft palate which hangs above the throat). This score denotes a slim to zero chance of suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. Class II scoring points to a complete visualization of the fauces, the soft palate, and most of the uvula. This scoring does not have a clear view of the entire soft palate, but it is not alarming enough to predict a high risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Class III has a reduced view of the uvula. Only its base is visible. Class IV denotes the highest risk of obstructive sleep apnea. The tongue almost completely obstructs the throat area so that the soft palate is not at all visible.

Any obstruction of the uvula highlights a likelihood of suffering from sleep apnea. If you already snore at night, it may be a clear sign that you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. If that is the case, our dental team at Millennium Smiles will recommend undergoing a polysomnogram or visiting a sleep expert for further diagnosis.


The Mallampati score does not treat obstructive sleep apnea. It is only a diagnostic tool that helps dental experts predict the likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea. Therefore, if you think you might be suffering from this sleeping disorder, consult a dentist or sleep doctor near you. An evaluative test will help determine the course of action necessary for your treatment. Some treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea include:

  1. A night guard – an oral appliance to help keep your airway open when you sleep
  2. Changing the sleeping posture – typically for mild obstructive sleep apnea
  3. Lifestyle changes that support healthy weight – especially if you are overweight or obese
  4. Surgery