How to sell scrap dental gold. / What is it worth?

Your old dental crowns, bridges and fillings likely have some value.

You might be surprised to learn that there is a market for scrap dental work.

Many people have old crowns and bridges tucked away in a box somewhere. And if you think about it, it is logical to assume that the metal from which these items are made is worth something. After all, why else would your dentist have returned them to you?

Besides for their metal content, however, these items have no other value at all (they can't be reused). So, since the price of gold and other precious metals have risen so much recently, why not go ahead and sell them?

Related content: Types of dental alloys [Precious (High Noble), Semi-precious (Noble) and Non-precious (Non-noble)].


How much gold content is there in a dental crown?

It's impossible for a patient to know (unless their dentist has told them) what the precious metal content of their dental work is.

Gold dental alloys.

For example, there are a number of different gold alloys used in dentistry, all of which have a characteristic yellow coloration. Those alloys that can be used to make dental crowns can have a karat value ranging anywhere from around 10 to 22. At 10 karats, a piece of metal is 40% gold. At 20 karats the gold content is 80%.

Silver-colored dental alloys.

Dentists also use silver-colored alloys to make crown and bridges and some of these can have high precious metal content. These alloys, known in dentistry as "precious" alloys, are composed of over 60% noble metal (gold, platinum, and/or palladium) of which at least 40% is gold. These alloys can be used to make "white gold" all-metal crowns or used as the metal substructure onto which porcelain is bonded. Confusingly, however, and at the other extreme, there is another class of "white" alloys used in dentistry that has no real precious metal content or scrap value.

So how much gold is there in your old crown or dental bridge? Like we said, it's impossible for you to know unless, of course, your dentist told you. Our point being, if you have old dental restorations you won't be in a position to determine their value. So send any and all you have to the refiner. Let them assay them. Items you assumed were worthless may really have some value.

How much can a gold dental restoration be worth?

To give you an idea about the value of scrap dental restorations, let's take the case of a dental crown. An average full "gold" crown might weigh on the order of two to three grams. This is on the short side of about one-tenth of an ounce.

As an easy, round number, let's do some calculations based on a gold price of $1000 per ounce. (Recently the price of gold has been over $1800 per ounce, which almost doubles the dollar amount given in our examples.)

  • If the crown's gold alloy is 10 karat, its precious metal value might be as much as $40.
  • If the crown's gold alloy is 22 karat, its precious metal value could be as much as $80.
Gold-colored dental crowns often have value.

Remember, you are selling scrap metal.

Of course the scrap materials you are sending in are not in a pure or usable state. They will have to undergo a refining process.

So, the refiner to whom you sell your old dental restorations to will no doubt charge a refining fee, or simply take a certain percentage off the top. These fees and percentages may vary according to the total weight of dental materials you have. Higher fees and percentages are charged for handling smaller amounts.

How do you find someone in the business of refining scrap dental work?

Local dealers.

As the price of gold has risen, more and more outlets for selling dental scrap have become available. In your own town a jeweler, pawnshop or even a dental lab may offer this service. The downside with dealing with a local party is that they will probably simply weigh your dental work and pay you at a standard per gram rate. There will not be a metal assay involved.

Online precious-metal refiners.

A simple web search will turn up a number of refiners to which you can mail in your scrap. The advantage of using these companies is that in effect you are "cutting out the middleman." Most local buyers will usually in turn sell their collected scrap gold to these types of companies. The other advantage is that there may be an actual assay involved, so your payment is based on the actual precious metal content of your shipment.

A porcelain-fused-to-metal dental crowns can be sold for their scrap-metal value.

Larger refiners will usually, upon request, send to you packaging materials free of charge. In some cases their shipper may provide some level of insurance coverage. You should document either in writing or by taking a picture what items you are sending to them, just so you have a record.

What types of items should you send to the refiner?

Clearly any yellow gold colored dental restorations have the potential for having precious metal content. But as we described above, so may many silver-colored items. This includes the metal substructure of porcelain crowns and dental bridges. You should send in whatever crowns, bridges, onlays and inlays you have. Let the refiner determine what has value.

You don't have to be concerned about removing any cement, porcelain or tooth parts from the dental work. That can be a difficult and unpleasant job. Simply send in your items and let the refiner separate the valuable parts. That's what they are getting paid for. Your job is to wait for the check.


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