Too often, practices see dental scrap they generate as little more than a compliance headache.
However, this perception likely leads dentists to throw away thousands of dollars in precious metals every year. In fact, recycling dental scrap with an experienced refiner is both environmentally friendly and can generate additional income that can be used for capital improvements, employee bonuses, or donated to charity.
Without much hassle, dental practices can develop and implement a comprehensive recycling plan that will streamline their recycling process, handle regulatory and environmental compliance, and capture the true value of the precious metals in their dental scrap.
Throwing dental scrap in the rubbish is detrimental to the environment. Materials like silver and mercury can seep into the soil, hurt natural ecosystems, and pollute fresh water sources. Recycling these materials for reuse in other products is the most environmentally friendly thing that dentists can do.
In addition to its environmental benefits, dental scrap can be valuable and should always be recycled.
Crowns, bridges, caps, inlays, porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns (PFMs), and other dental scrap generally contain a mix of gold, platinum, palladium, or silver. An experienced refiner can isolate the precious metals in the dental scrap and will pay you for the value of the extracted material. When dentists throw away these precious metals, the scrap is lost in landfills, which is terrible for the environment and results in a financial loss for the practice.
How to value dental scrap
Many dentists mistakenly treat amalgam waste and dental scrap the same. In fact, they are very different, and dentists should take care to separate valuable dental material from their amalgam.
Precious metals are non-corrosive and non-toxic, which make them ideally suited for use in dental applications. However, because these metals are also soft and malleable, they must be mixed with base metals, like copper or tin, which makes the dental implants harder and more durable. This mixture of precious and base metals creates what is known as an alloy.
Since every dental alloy is a unique blend of metals, properly determining the contents requires scientific evaluation known as an “assay.” An assay is the process in which metals are melted down and evaluated to determine composition. Without a proper assay, it is impossible to know the composition of an alloy or dental implants.
Not all dental implants are the same, and nearly identical looking bridges may have significantly different compositions. For example, one bridge could contain 17% gold, while another bridge could contain 50% gold. While these two bridges look similar, they have substantially different values.
Due to the necessary nature of the evaluation process, recycling your dental materials with a metal refinery is the only way to ensure you are fairly compensated. Merely weighing the scrap and offering cash on the spot is not an accurate or smart way to recycle. Potential buyers offering cash without performing an assay on your material have no way of knowing its makeup and will make a conservative offer for pennies on the dollar.
Gold isn’t always king
Gold is not the only metal worth recycling in dental scrap. For example, palladium, a gray metal commonly used in dental applications, is also very valuable. Palladium nearly doubled in value from August 2018 to April 2019, skyrocketing from around $1,222 AUD/oz. to over $2,157 AUD/oz. according to Kitco.com.
Dentists who only collect scrap material with a golden yellow color are throwing away as much as 50% of the value in their dental scrap. The clear lesson is that dentists should not try to curate their own material by collecting what looks like gold but should instead send all their dental scrap to a refiner who will properly test and recycle it.
Too many dentists do not fully appreciate the environmental impacts or potential revenue from recycling their dental scrap. Viewing scrap recycling as just a compliance or regulatory issue misses the benefits gained from recycling scrap with an experienced refinery.
Adopting the habit of collecting and recycling extracted dental implants will generate revenue that can be used to fund staff bonuses, buy new equipment, or support a local charity. It’s clear that dental scrap recycling is an important, but often ignored aspect of running any dental practice. Instead of treating dental scrap as waste, dentists should separate the valuable precious metals found within the scrap to benefit their employees, patients, and practice.
(article by Bob Torrissi, Vice President of Garfield Refining Company)