How to sell scrap dental gold. / What’s it worth? –
Your old dental crowns, bridges and gold fillings have value.
Lots of people have an old crown or bridge tucked away in a drawer or box, possibly even more than one. And if you’re one of them, you might be surprised to learn that there’s a market for this kind of scrap dental work.
If you think about it, it’s only logical to assume that these items have some value. After all, why else would your dentist have given them to you? But besides their scrap metal value, they’re worth nothing at all. They can’t otherwise be reused.
So since the price of gold and other precious metals typically found in dental alloys (platinum, palladium, silver) has risen so drastically in the past few decades, why not find a buyer for your items and sell them?
FYI: Don’t think for a second that your dentist and the dental lab that made your crown don’t know how much it can be worth, even as scrap.
Both will unquestionably have a long-standing relationship with a scrap gold buyer (usually a refiner) to whom they regularly sell old restorations, and in the case of dental labs, metal grindings, floor sweeps and even floor carpeting from around the area where restorations are made.
Here are the things you’ll need to know.
- How much gold (and other precious metals) do dental restorations contain?
- How much money can a gold dental crown be worth?
- What kinds of dental work are likely to have value?
- Where can you sell dental gold? (Comparing buyers. Local vs. online companies.)
1) How much gold is in a dental crown?
A scrap crown’s value is simply based on how much precious metal it contains, which is a function of both its size (weight actually) and the type of alloy that’s been used to make it.
Determining the weight of your restoration is straightforward enough. But the type of alloy used to make it adds a lot of variability to the outcome of the equation.
That’s because some dental alloys contain gold and other valuable metals (typically platinum, palladium and/or silver). But at the other extreme, some are formulated with no precious metal content at all.
Background – Dental alloy classifications.
Dental alloys are divided into categories based on their level of precious metal content. They are: a) Precious (high noble), b) Semi-precious (noble) and c) Non-precious (non-noble).
(This page provides more details about the classification system used with dental alloys and how their precious metal content varies Percentages..)
a) Gold dental alloys.
The different gold alloys commonly used in dentistry have a karat value ranging anywhere from around 10 to 22.
- At 10 karats, the alloy is about 40% gold.
- At 20 karats, it’s roughly 80%.
- On average, the typical yellow-colored gold dental crown can be expected to be around 16 karats (67%).
Besides just gold, this type of alloy typically also contains amounts of palladium, platinum and silver.
b) “White gold” dental alloys.
Dentists sometimes use silver-colored alloys to make restorations. And some of these have a high precious metal content.
- Those that do are literally classified as being “precious” (see categories link above). They’re sometimes referred to as “white gold.”
- By definition, the term “precious” means that the alloy is composed of over 60% high-noble metal (gold, platinum, and/or palladium) of which at least 40% is gold. (! Notice, even silver-colored alloys can have a high gold content.)
This type of alloy is frequently used to make all-metal crowns and bridges, or the metal substructure underneath porcelain surfaced ones (porcelain-fused-to-metal restorations).
c) Which type of alloy was used to make your crown or bridge?
It’s rare that a dental patient has been given any information about the precise composition of the alloy that’s been used to create their dental work. And if you haven’t, then it’s not possible for you to calculate exactly how much gold content it contains. (Thus all the more reason not to throw any scrap dental restorations away.)
Possible resources for this information.
You may have some sources that can shed some light on what kind of alloy has been used. For example:
- Your dentist may have made a remark to you or their assistant and you remember it.
- If you still have any of the associated paperwork (receipt, insurance claim, etc…), it likely makes reference to the category of the alloy (see Categories link above).
But even with these sources, the information you’ll have will only be general and unlikely to reveal the exact composition of the alloy used. And if that’s the case, the only way to know precisely how much gold and other precious metals are in your crown is via a metallurgical assay (discussed below).
2) How much can a gold dental crown be worth?
The sample calculations on this page are for a crown similar to this one.
- If the crown’s alloy is 10 karat (40% gold), its value might be as much as $40.
- If the crown’s gold alloy is 22 karat (92%), its value could be as much as $92.
Keep in mind, you’re selling scrap metal.
Of course, any dental restorations you have to sell are scrap. The metal they contain is not in a pure or usable state. It will have to be refined.
That means the company to whom you sell your dental work will have to adjust the price they pay you …
- … so to cover their refining costs (15 to 18% is the industry standard) …
- … plus the amount of profit they need to cover their overhead so they’re able to stay in business.
This adjusted price is often referred to as the “payout” rate.
How much is the average payout for a crown?
As an example of what you might expect, we found one company specializing in buying dental gold that stated on their website that they generally pay 85% of gold’s current “spot” price (the daily closing price reported by financial newspapers and websites).
- That means if the spot price is $1000/ounce (like in our example above), and your 1/10th-ounce crown was made using 22 karat (92%) gold alloy, you would be paid 85% of the number we calculated above, which is $78.20.
$78.20 = $1000(spot price) X .1(weight factor) X .85(refining fee) X .92(karat adjustment)
- Since most gold crowns are more along the line of 16 karats (67%), an average one could be expected to bring around $56.95.
$56.95 = $1000(spot price) X .1(weight factor) X .85(refining fee) X .67(karat adjustment)
Each company will have its own payout rates.
To get a more complete idea of what’s offered, we did a quick scan of several gold buyer’s websites and here’s what we found.
- The range of payout rates we saw seemed to range from 70 to 90% of the current spot market price.
- With many companies, the rate varied according to the amount of scrap gold you had to sell, or more accurately, the amount of precious metal your volume of scrap contained.
(Including scrap jewelry with your dental work might be a way of boosting up this number.)
- In the case where you are a repeat customer (something a dentist is more likely to be rather than a dental patient), you’re given a higher rate (the 90% number we mentioned previously).
- Everything just mentioned is in regard to payouts for gold.
Dental alloys routinely contain other precious metals (platinum, palladium, silver) and they typically have their own separate rate (we have more to say about this below).
A porcelain-fused-to-metal dental crown.
Some “white” dental alloys contain precious metals, including gold.
3) What types of dental work do gold buyers want?
a) Assume everything you have has value.
That means it’s best to just assume that everything you have is worth something. And it should all just be lumped together.
Dental work of interest.
Here’s a list of the different kinds of restorations that may contain valuable metals and therefore should be submitted for sale to your dental scrap buyer.
- partial dentures
You should also send in extracted teeth (see below) that have any of the above items still attached, or gold foil dental fillings.
Items of lesser interest.
Buyers typically aren’t interested in the following:
- Amalgam dental fillings – This is the common kind of silver-colored tooth filling that’s placed in a single office visit.
- Silver-colored partial dentures – You’ll need to inquire but this type of appliance typically isn’t wanted by scrap buyers. (Although they may be able to recycle its metal for you.)
Gold partials on the other hand (their metal is usually yellow in color) are an entirely different matter and are very likely to have significant value.
Terms used for precious restorations.
Dental terms used to describe valuable metals include:
- white gold
- porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM’s)
- porcelain-fused-to-gold (PFG’s)
- high noble
b) Sell your dental work “as is.”
Don’t worry about removing any cement, porcelain or tooth parts from the dental work you have. Doing so can be an unpleasant and difficult (if not impossible) job. You’ll simply end up wasting time and getting frustrated.
Any serious buyer of dental scrap will be prepared to handle materials in this condition.
- Actual precious metal refiners will put everything in a crucible and melt it down. The precious metals will be poured off, and then an assay (determination of composition) will be performed. The waste that remains will be discarded.
- With small lot buyers, especially those who offer to return your items if you don’t agree to the proposed payout (see below), your scrap will be evaluated in its “as is” state.
While there are ways to determine the composition/purity of the metal involved (see below), the attached bits of porcelain, cement and tooth will make it difficult to determine the exact weight of your dental work.
While the buyer’s estimate will no doubt tend to favor their side of the payout equation as opposed to yours, that’s just the nature of selling dental scrap when there’s not a melt assay involved.
You do need to keep in mind that what you have to sell is probably contaminated with biologic materials. This is especially obvious when a tooth is still attached. But even restorations alone are likely to be contaminated with saliva and blood.
It’s your obligation to handle and transport your materials with this in mind. Keeping them in a sealed container (pill bottle) or sealable plastic pouch (heavy-duty baggie) makes a good choice.
- As a gesture, you can reduce the microbial load found on your objects by soaking them in a 1:10 dilution of household bleach and water for 10 minutes.
- A special challenge in the total disinfection of items is those that are still attached to whole teeth.
Tijare reports that sterilization can be achieved in this case by placing one tooth in 10ml (2/3 tablespoon) 3% hydrogen peroxide (the routine concentration sold in drug stores) OR household vinegar, in a closed container for a period of 7 days.
4) How to sell your old dental work. – Comparing dental gold buyers.
a) Local buyers.
As the price of gold has risen over the past decade, more and more outlets for selling dental scrap locally have cropped up. For example, in your own town a jeweler, pawnshop, coin shop or even a dental laboratory may offer this service.
The disadvantage of selling locally.
The downside to dealing with the vast majority of local outlets is that they’ll just weigh your dental work (after separating it into all-metal and porcelain-covered groups) and pay you based on a standard rate. There won’t be any metallurgical assay involved (a scientific appraisal of the actual amount of precious metal in your items).
This is a big shortcoming:
- With gold-colored dental work, since the buyer can’t be sure of the purity involved the only price that they’ll be able to offer, yet still protect their interests, is a low one.
- In the case of silver-colored restorations, without an assay it’s impossible for them to even know if any “white” precious metals are even present. So in cases where they are, there’s no way they can offer you a reasonable payout.
So except for the case where you have an actual refinery in your town, selling your scrap dental work locally makes having that convenience a comparatively less attractive one.
b) Online buyers / Precious-metal refiners.
There’s no shortage of online companies that will buy your dental gold.
“Online” gold buyers?
We’ve used the term online here but all that refers to is that you learn details and make initial arrangements for your transaction through the company’s website. You could get this same information over the phone, or from a shipment form if you had one.
a) You’re more likely to cut out the middleman.
When you do business with an online company that’s also an actual precious-metals refiner, you are in effect “cutting out the middleman.”
Most local gold buyers just turn around and sell the dental work they’ve bought to refining companies. So why not just send it to them on your own and get the better payout rate for yourself?
b) You’re more likely to get actual testing or an assay.
Another advantage of using an online refiner, as opposed to a local buyer, is that for companies for whom this is their primary business they’re more likely to offer more sophisticated testing and evaluation of your scrap.
That means you’ll get paid more fairly. And not just for the gold content your dental work contains but also possibly for the “white” precious metals that are usually found in dental alloys (platinum, palladium, silver) that local buyers typically ignore.
Ways precious scrap metals are tested.
- Meltdown and assay – This is the highest caliber of testing possible. To perform this type of analysis, your dental work is first melted down into a single homogeneous lump. This removes contaminants and impurities (what’s left is referred to as the “melt weight” of what you’ve sent in).
While still in molten form, a sample is taken and scientifically analyzed to document precisely the type and quantity of precious metals (including platinum, palladium and silver) that it contains (this is generally referred to as a “fire assay”). Some type of certification of the results is usually involved. The whole process typically takes a company a few days to complete.
A scrap buyer may not offer a fire assay unless your shipment meets certain limits (weight is usually the criteria used). We noticed one refiner whose weight requirement seemed to be on the order of around 30 dental crowns. Most people won’t have this much dental scrap but don’t overlook that you might include unwanted jewelry in your shipment.
- Testing individual objects – A lot of online dental scrap buyers offer the situation where: Your dental work is sent in. They evaluate it and make you a monetary offer for it (often on the same day they receive it). You then decide if you want to accept that offer or not. If you don’t, your items are returned to you.
Obviously, with this type of transaction where a return option is offered, the value of your scrap hasn’t been determined via an assay where your dental work has been melted down. Instead, likely a touchstone scratch/acid (at-home gold/silver/platinum touchstone kits are available), electronic, or XRF (x-ray fluorescent) testing has been used. All can be performed without harming the object being evaluated.
A touchstone/acid test typically involves some interpretation on the tester’s part (such as your crown tests more than 16K but less than 18K gold, so is it 16K or 17K?). Electronic testing can be more precise, but the calibration and operation of the apparatus can be a concern. XRF testing is the most accurate of these three and therefore the preferable choice. (You should ask which will be used for your shipment.)
Of course, without melting the items down a precise measurement of their weight is just an estimate, making non-intrusive evaluations generally less desirable.
Services offered by online refiners.
Here are details about what to look for when comparing online gold buyers.
[As opposed to clients who are likely to be repeat customers (like dentists), people who just have one or infrequent shipments to send in are often referred to as “private” sellers. So when looking for information, check out that portion of the buyer’s website for those details that apply to you.]
a) Free shipping.
Almost all refiners with an online presence offer free shipping. Typically you fill out a form on their website that includes your address, they’ll then follow up by sending one of their mailers to you.
[Don’t be surprised if the company insists that you provide some information documenting who you are. This may include: driver’s license number, state of issuance, and date of birth.]
Besides just being prepaid, the mailer’s envelope usually has a sturdy construction, and it contains some type of plastic bag that’s appropriate for shipping biologic materials (attached tooth parts). Some companies also offer additional services such as package insurance and tracking.
b) No minimum quantity.
It’s pretty common for online refiners to state on their website that “no amount is too small.” But if you only have one or just a few crowns, or a single bridge, it might be a good idea to call or email them to get specific details.
Payout rates may be lower.
Since they have some basic fixed expenses associated with handling every transaction, companies are likely to lower their payout rate for smaller amounts so to ensure that these costs are covered.
Consider sending in old jewelry too.
In the case where some type of minimum is involved, consider adding in damaged or unwanted jewelry to your shipment to boost its value.
c) Metallurgical assay.
You’ll need to know the method that will be used to determine the value of your scrap. As discussed above:
- An assay that involves melting your dental work down is most preferable. But for small lots, this type of testing may not be offered.
- In lieu of that, analysis via XRF would be considered to be more accurate than performing a touchstone/acid or electronic test, so ask which will be used.
Make sure you’re paid for other metals besides just gold.
Whatever type of assay is performed, check that you’ll receive payment for all of the different types of precious metals that your dental work contains (gold, silver, palladium and platinum are the primary concerns here). Some companies only make payouts for gold, and depending on the specifics of the dental alloy involved, that may work out substantially to your disadvantage.
d) Payout rates.
Our check of websites found promises of payouts that seemingly ranged from 70 to 95% of the “spot” price of the metal involved. (Payout rate = Value of your scrap after refining and service fees.)
There seems a lot of room for a scrap buyer to finagle factors that will affect the calculation of how much you are paid (which precious metals are present, their purity and your scrap’s weight). And as such, we’d be wary of companies who seem to offer absurdly high payout rates.
An article by Kugel states that the industry standard for fees runs on the order of 15 to 18% when dental scrap is involved.
A company’s fees will vary according to the amount of precious metal content your shipment contains (their payout rate will be higher for larger shipments), and the general nature of your materials (for example, dental scrap costs them more to refine than conventional objects like coins).
Many sites feature some sort of “payout calculator” widget.
- To make an accurate comparison between companies in regard to payout rates, it doesn’t necessarily matter what information you enter into their calculator, just as long as you enter the exact same details on each website.
- At least for gold, the “spot” price that’s most frequently used is the daily close on the London Metal Exchange (the “PM London fix”).
- A company should state which day’s close applies. For example, is it the day your shipment was received, assayed, an average based on both dates, or just whichever day happens to be the most advantageous for the buyer? Reputable companies will state a specific policy so you know.
f) Payout rate guarantees.
After receiving and evaluating your shipment, a buyer or refiner will offer you a payout for it. You can then either accept the amount, or request that your items are returned to you.
That’s the guarantee, you have the option to complete the transaction by accepting the offer or not.
What to look for:
In regard to this process, we would have the following comments to make.
- Our preference – Some refiners state that it takes several days, or longer, to assay your items. And if you choose to reject their offer, your materials come back to you in “processed form” (as a lump of melted down metal).
We’d feel comfortable with this scenario. It suggests that very accurate testing did take place. The offer is probably fair.
We won’t pretend to be experts on this matter but two published sources we referenced for this page (Kugel, Circelli) stated that industry-wide, the average amount of time needed to perform a complete assay was 5 to 7 days. And to fully process a lot (from arrival to payout) 5 to 10 days was typically needed.
- Keep your eyes open. – Other companies state that their evaluation is made and a payout calculated in as little as 24 hours after the items are received. If you decide against taking their offer, your items are returned intact.
As discussed above, this is the type of scenario where less rigorous composition analysis is involved. And the actual weight of your objects is really just estimated. So with this type of situation, you should be asking how these determinations are made, so you know to your satisfaction. And if the answers or offer don’t seem right to you, reject it (see below).
Also, keep your eyes open to the possibility that who you are selling to may just be a “middleman.” This is the situation where you’re paid a standard base rate for your items (a low-ball “guesstimate”). The middleman then turns around and has the scrap precisely assayed and reaps the rewards.
Rejecting the offer.
Just getting to the point where they can make you an offer for your items involves some time and expense for the buyer. And if you end up rejecting their proposal, they’ll be out that cost.
As a way of helping to ensure that they’ll complete the transaction with you:
- If an assay has been made, the company might offer to repeat it just so there is no question about its accuracy and that the amount that has been offered is fair.
- With “middleman” operations (the situation where only a guesstimate about value is made), rejecting the initial offer may lead to a second better one. So if you don’t think what’s been offered is fair, you should let them know.
Checking online companies out further.
- It only makes sense that you should check out a company you are thinking of doing business with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Here’s a link to their website. Go.
- Refiners that have established relationships with dental organizations lends to their credibility.
National Association of Dental Laboratories – Category “Important Dental Suppliers” Go.
American Dental Association – Category “Precious Metals Refiner” Go.
- Don’t overlook using Google’s street view to eyeball the company to which you’ll be sending your shipment. For example, it takes a real building to have all of the equipment needed to refine metals. If instead you find yourself looking at what’s just a storefront, the company you’re considering may be a middleman operation.
c) Local buyers / Refiners.
Don’t overlook the case that you may have a local precious metals refiner right in your own city. If so, you can get the convenience of dealing locally yet still get a professional assay and preferred rate.
[Due to security reasons, you may find that your local refiner insists that all transactions are handled as shipments (no walk-ins). You’ll simply need to call and inquire about their policy.]
Page references sources:
Circelli T. Refining the trust relationship.
Kugel G. Asset management for the dental practice: Understanding the value of precious metal scrap.
Tijare M, et al. Vinegar as a disinfectant of extracted human teeth for dental educational use.
All reference sources for topic Dental Crowns.
This section contains comments submitted in previous years. Many have been edited so to limit their scope to subjects discussed on this page.
On the metal in dental work and how some dentists lie about it.
I had a crown that my last dentist told me was a ‘Platinum crown’. After it came loose, was reinstalled then came out again, I stopped using that dentist. Eventually I sent the crown along with some gold jewelry into a dental refiner suggested by the dental school I now use for dental work. While the jewelry I sent was indeed gold, and they paid me a fair market price for it all, the crown was worth nothing. It was not made of platinum or any noble metal. Its $600 price was all labor it seems. Now the dental school I’m using is putting in some ‘gold’ crowns and they tell me the metal cost alone is $200 per crown, which does not sound correct. From what I’ve read here the real value is likely under $50?
We’d suggest that some issues we discuss on this page are being overlooked in your comparison.
Our calculations are based on an estimated spot price for gold of $1000. Today’s spot price is almost exactly 25% higher.
Also, the calculations shown above factor in a refining fee (that reduces the payout amount by %15).
Very big unknowns are the crown’s weight (which even your dental school doesn’t know until the crown is actually fabricated), and the gold content of the alloy (which we show two sets of calculations for above so to consider in this factor).
Also, the calculations above only deal with the possible value of the gold content of crown on its own. They overlook that a precious dental alloys also contain other metals that have value (something your dentist pays for but a refiner will not unless an assay is performed).
Also, a dentist typically pays a premium for the alloy that’s used. The dental lab will buy the alloy at fair-market price. To cover associated expenses, including waste incurred, the lab marks up the price, even on the order of 25%.
I just want to Thank You for all the information you provided. I’m very happy I pulled your site up! I have been ripped off several times with pawning my jewels ! I am still sick about the last ring I took to the local shop. It was worth at least $2000. very sentimental too. I still ask myself WHY? did I do this for $87.00? What was I thinking? A very large amount of cut diamonds. Also many years ago I had a complete set of silver dinnerware. My God-Mother Aunt bought piece by piece for my birthday’s,Christmas etc. It was stolen from my home and I had no insurance. When I found out what it was worth I basically passed out! I had No idea! I’ll carry this to my grave. The sentiment priceless:(
Debris attached to crowns.
What about the bits of teeth that are still attached……. do I have to remove them?
No, with most companies attached bits of tooth, cement or porcelain are not an issue for them.
Reuse old crown’s metal.
I don’t understand. Why is it a gold crown can’t be melted down and made into a new gold crown? It’s already the proper material for that use so why not reuse it??
Back in an era when it was more likely for a dentist to make the gold crowns they placed right in their own office, melting old crowns down to make new ones probably was not uncommon (and probably implemented as a cost-savings device for the dentist more so than the patient).
Today the vast majority of dentists have a dental laboratory fabricate their gold crowns for them. And using an old crown poses some obstacles/unpredictability for the lab that using “fresh” alloy direct from a manufacturer/refiner doesn’t. As examples:
1) Removing tooth, cement and associated debris from a crown isn’t always that easy, and can be a nasty job. Using “new” gold is effortless and sanitary.
2) Any bits or impurities that unknowingly remained with the gold when it is melted for the casting process would spoil the casting (crown). The lab tech would then have to redo a number of steps (thus cutting into their relatively small profit). Using “new” gold makes the casting process more predictable.
3) Related to insurance/billing codes, a laboratory and dentist need to know the composition of gold alloy used (precious, non-precious, base). When “new” alloy is used, the lab knows precisely its composition. With an old crown, without a proper assay, that would be an unknown.
4) The process of casting requires more gold than that contained in the finished crown. And the leftover amount (the casing “button”) is routinely used to make future restorations. So by mixing enough “new” gold with an old crown to do a job leaves the tech with a lump of now questionable mystery metal (unknown purity, composition), which would place other castings into question.
Sure, there could be work arounds for all of these types of obstacles. But doing so would just created a lot of headaches for a dental laboratory that they can avoid by using “fresh” alloy. And for that reason, using the old crown is not a service that’s typically offered. (Lots of industries have these same kinds of restrictions: roofers want to use new shingles, car mechanics want to place parts from their supplier, etc…)
I used a company in Philly and was blown away by the experience. Great people and very transparent regarding value of materials. Gxxxxxxx Refining. I shipped on Tues and had funds direct deposited on Friday.
We’re hesitant to specifically mention names on this page, although we left enough information in your post that anyone should be able to figure things out.