Understanding the Mallampati Score: Implications and Uses for Treatment

Last updated: September 7th, 2023

Understanding the Mallampati Score

The Mallampati score is an assessment tool that healthcare providers use to measure a person's risk of having obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is a non-invasive test, done by sitting upright, opening the mouth, and sticking out the tongue. The score is given based on what structures can be seen in the mouth and throat. The structures include the epiglottis, soft palate, hard palate, uvula, and tonsillar pillars. In the most commonly used Mallampati scoring system, called the modified Mallampati score, the structures are scored as follows:

  • Class 1: The soft palate, uvula, and tonsillar pillars can be viewed;
  • Class 2: Just the soft palate and uvula are visible;
  • Class 3: On a Class 3 score, only the soft palate is visible.
  • Class 4: None of the above structures can be seen. Patients with a Mallampati score of Class 4 may be more likely to have OSA, and further evaluation may be recommended before determining the best course of treatment.

Implications of the Mallampati Score

Although the Mallampati score alone is not enough to diagnose OSA, it can help healthcare providers decide which patients may benefit from additional testing. This helps create an appropriate plan for diagnosing and treating OSA. As the score simply helps determine who would benefit from further evaluation, it is important to note that there are other factors besides the score that go into the diagnosis of OSA. Therefore, additional tests such as a physical exam, medical history and sleep studies may still be required.

Using the Mallampati Score for Treatment

After completing the recommended evaluation tests, if OSA is diagnosed, the Mallampati score might provide insight into the severity of the condition, and the best steps for treatment. Treatment plans for OSA might include lifestyle and diet changes, weight loss, cpap machines or oral appliances. Additionally, the score could prove beneficial in selecting the best oral appliance for a patient. The way that the score presents information could make it easier for healthcare providers to determine the best treatment for their patient.


The Mallampati score can be a useful tool for healthcare providers as a quick way to assess a patient's risk of having OSA. Though the score alone is not enough to diagnose the condition, it can help healthcare providers decide what kind of tests to recommend, and aid in finding the best treatment plan for the patient. To learn more about the Mallampati score and other related topics, discuss more with your healthcare provider.

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