Use of the Mallampati Score in Dentistry


Mallampati score examples

In the field of medicine, the Mallampati Score (also referred to as Mallampati Classification) is used to predict the ease of endotracheal intubation. The test evaluates the distance from the base of the tongue to the roof of the mouth and therefore the amount of space in which there is to intubate.  A high Mallampati score (class III or class IV) is associated with more difficult intubation due to the decreased airway space.

Named after the Indian-born American anaesthesiologist Seshagiri Mallampati, the score is assessed by asking a seated patient to open his or her mouth and protrude their tongue as far as possible.  At this time, the clinician evaluates the area and structures at and behind the base of the tongue. 

The Mallampati Score is as follows:

  • Class I: Soft palate and entire uvula are visible
  • Class II: Soft palate and most of uvula are visible
  • Class III: Soft palate and only the base of uvula are visible
  • Class IV: Soft palate is not visible at all

These classifications are wonderfully represented by the diagram above

So why would a dentist be writing about this topic in the first place??  Well, it’s all about the airway!  In dentistry, The Mallampati Score can be used to help predict Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).  In my practice, I’ve found it to be a fantastic, quick, and non-invasive method of prediction.  Remember that a high Mallampati score (class III or class IV) patient has decreased airway space resulting in more difficult intubation.  The diminished airways space also correlates to an increased likelihood of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  Class III and Class IV patients often exhibit many of the classic OSA symptoms.  A few such symptoms are waking unrefreshed from sleep, heavy snoring, and short periods of time where breathing temporarily ceases while sleeping.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a very serious condition that is affecting more and more people every year.  If you would like to read my July 2017 newsletter article on Adult & Pediatric OSA, please click HERE.  If you are unable to click the link, past newsletters can always be found on my office website

If you would like to speak about this topic, or any other, please feel free to call the office and schedule a complimentary appointment with me.  Email and Twitter are also available options.  I am extremely passionate about modern dentistry and love discussing it with patients, so don’t hesitate to contact me. 



[email protected]

Twitter: @EjacksonDDS

Mallampati, SR; Gatt, SP; Gugino, LD; Desai, SP; Waraksa, B; Freiberger, D; Liu, PL (Jul 1985). "A clinical sign to predict difficult tracheal intubation: a prospective study.". Canadian Anaesthetists' Society Journal32 (4): 429–34.

Nuckton TJ, Glidden DV, Browner WS, Claman DM (Jul 1, 2006). "Physical examination: Mallampati score as an independent predictor of obstructive sleep apnea". Sleep29 (7): 903–8.

Contact Us

Send Us an Email

Our Location

Find us on the map

Hours of Operation

Our Regular Schedule

Jackson Family Dentistry


7:30 am-5:00 pm


9:30 am-7:00 pm


7:30 am-5:00 pm


7:30 am-5:00 pm


7:30 am-5:00 pm


7:30 AM - 12:30 PM (Selective Dates)