The Goods

Can a spoon help indicate your oral health? Five simple home health tests

Use everyday household items to evaluate your health. Here are five simple and easy health tests that you can do from the comfort of your own home.

They're quick and easy — and they could just help save your life! Dr. Joelene Huber shares some simple health tests with us that you can do from the comfort of your home.

These health tests are all about preventative measures and help screen for certain conditions. So, if you happen to fail any of these screenings you should, of course, consult with your doctor.

Spoon test

The spoon test checks for a couple of different things. Our breath can actually give us some indication of our health — particularly our oral health! But, it can also be an indicator of kidney function and can even indicate more serious health issues, such as a diabetic crisis.

Directions:

1. Scrape the very back of your tongue with your spoon.

2. Then, put the spoon in a plastic bag and seal it.

3. Put it under the light for 60 seconds to let it fester.

4. Once it's "cooked" look at the results.

Results: A clear residue that smells like saliva is a normal screening result! If there is an unpleasant smell, it could be a sign of what we call "halitosis", which is the medical term for "bad breath". If there is an unpleasant smell or a strange coloured residue, it could mean there is bacteria present below the gumline and on the back of the tongue. It could be an indication of gum disease, cavities or an oral health issue and it's a good idea to visit your dentist and doctor to discuss it.

Most of the time, the odour is caused by bacteria at the back of the tongue or an oral health issue. But bad breath can also indicate more serious things as well, such as a diabetic crisis or a kidney problem.

However, if you think you have bad breath, you're not alone! Concern about halitosis (bad breath) is estimated to be the third most frequent reason people to seek dental care and about 1/5 (20%) of the general population suffers from it to some degree.

Wobble test

The wobble test screens for a fine tremor. A tremor is a sign that could be associated with a number of things, but one thing it could indicate is an overactive thyroid – which is 4 times more common in women than in men. All you need for this is a sheet of paper.

Directions:

Place a piece of 8x11 paper across your hand.

Results: If the paper trembles or shakes a lot, you could have a tremor. This could be associated with an overactive thyroid gland due to excessive amounts of thyroid hormones circulating — especially if you are also losing weight, feel hot, moody, and fatigue and have irregular menstrual cycles. But, a tremor could also be caused by other health conditions.

There are many reasons tremors can occur, such as caffeine, some medications, such as asthma medication, smoking, anxiety, a benign essential tremor and other neurological conditions. Many of these causes are not concerning, but if you do notice a tremor, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about it.

Cushion test

The cushion test screens for how well your blood is circulating through your arteries and vessels, all the way to your extremities.

Directions:

1. Take off your socks.

2. Lie on your bed or sofa and elevate both legs to a 45-degree angle using cushions or pillows.

3. Hold this position for one minute.

4. After one minute, hang your legs down over the side of the bed or sofa at a 90 degree angle.

Results: In people with healthy peripheral vessels, normal colour should return within 10-30 seconds. If one or both of your feet and toenail beds become very pale when elevated, but it takes several minutes to return to a normal pink colour, or become bright red when hanging, you could have blocked arteries – which could mean an increased risk of heart disease. Risk factors for poor vascular health in your legs include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes (poor heart function/circulation). People with untreated arterial disease of the legs have a more than a 30% chance of a heart attack or stroke within the next five years (as it may raise the risk of blood clots).

Note: this test can give a false positive in healthy people (it could be a sign of poor circulation). So before you worry about PAD, additional signs to look for are cramping, pain and tiredness in the legs while walking or climbing stairs, leg numbness/weakness, cold legs or feet, sores that take a long time to heal on toes/feet/legs, a change in leg/feet colour and changes in toenail color and thickness. If any of these symptoms are present, discuss them with your doctor peripheral artery disease. Left untreated, they can lead to debilitating and limb-threatening consequences.

Carpal tunnel test

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a really common issue. Types of work that are thought to be associated with carpal tunnel syndrome include: computer work at keyboards, work with vibrating tools, work with repetitive wrist movements and work that requires a strong grip. Pregnancy, diabetes and obesity are also risk factors. Contrary to popular belief, the use of birth control pills does not affect the risk.

Directions:

1. Hold your arms up vertically at shoulder height.

2. Flex your wrists — like a reverse prayer position — allowing your hands to fall freely forward at a 90 degree angle.

3. Hold this position for one minute.

Results: While you're holding your hands here - if you feel any numbness, tingling, or pain in your fingers (Thumb, pointer finger, middle finger and half of your ring finger) or palms, you could be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. This syndrome occurs when the nerve that runs through the wrist to your hand becomes compressed. Did you know that women are roughly three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome? This may be due, in part, to anatomy: Smaller wrists mean there's less room for the nerve to snake through.

Some suggested healthy habits include avoiding repetitive stress, work modification through the use of ergonomic workspace by improving your environment and equipment; taking proper breaks; using keyboard alternatives such as digital pens or dictation; and Isometric stretches.

Sniff test

How good is your sense of smell? According to a study, how well you smell could actually indicate how long you'll live! Researchers in Chicago asked 3000 participants to identify particular scents. Approximately 40% of the people with the poorest sense of smell (i.e. couldn't identify any of the scents or only one scent) actually died within five years, compared to 10% of those who were able to properly identify the certain scents.

This test requires two people so that the one doing the sniff test is not aware of the object they are smelling.

Directions:

1. Have your partner blindfold you.

2. Have your partner hand you four different scents to smell.

Results: If you get just one of the smells wrong you are "normosmic" (normal sense of smell). You are considered "hyposmic" (impaired sense of smell) if you missed two scents. And if you miss all of the scents, you are "anosmic."

It isn't surprising that sense of smell may contribute to our overall health, and perhaps this study shows us that we should pay more attention to our sensations as a part of our overall wellbeing. Scientists say that the results do not show that the loss of smell sense does directly cause death, but may be an early warning sign of deterioration, or that damage may have been done.