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Inside Dentistry
January 2013
Volume 9, Issue 1

Set A Gold Standard In Your Practice

Turn your scraps into cash to turn a profit.

By Tony Circelli

In a restorative dental practice, precious metals are a mainstay of the business and the scrap that comes from daily work with these metals is a valuable by-product that dentists can convert into an additional source of income for the practice. As the prices of these precious metals have made headlines (gold was approximately $1,700 per ounce, palladium was approximately $600 per ounce, and platinum was approximately $1,500 per ounce at press time), more and more dental practices are realizing that they can convert their scraps into dollars.

To maintain a dental practice as a successful business, everyone in the practice must conserve as many resources as possible and understand that any unused material represents lost profit. Unfortunately, many employees do not recognize the potential value of their waste. Today’s dental professionals need to generate profits from every available resource, and this includes recycling scrap metals containing gold, silver, palladium, and platinum.

You can find scrap in many different shapes and forms, such as old or replaced crowns.Your restorative work areas probably have plenty of retrievable gold, platinum, palladium, and silver. With a few simple steps, you can recycle your scrap materials into a profit instead putting them out with the trash.

Schedule Your Scrap

One of the key parts of your scrap collection system is to create a schedule. Strictly followed and monitored scrap collection schedules in the dental practice can have a big impact on your bottom line. Do not overlook the smallest amount because you will be overlooking additional revenue.

When it comes to collecting dental scrap, there are many things you can do to make the process as efficient and profitable as possible. Here are some important points to keep in mind.

1. Establish a routine for collecting and submitting your scrap. One person should be responsible for ensuring that scrap collections are completed and shipped to a refiner according to a predetermined schedule based on what is best for your practice (eg, monthly, quarterly, or biannually) to maximize the market value of the metals. That person should also be responsible for setting up the collection method (eg, establishing collection jars in each operatory) and developing a checklist for the collection process.

2. Be thorough when collecting scrap. The point person should make sure that every clinical staff member understands what to collect. Extractions that contain any kind of metal, crowns and bridges, partial crowns, silver alloy, inlays/onlays, and metal implants should all go in the collection jar. Do not collect amalgam, lead foil, x-ray film, mercury, or dental instruments.

3. Package the scrap carefully, insure it, and ship it to a company you trust. Solid crowns, inlays/onlays, and extractions can be packaged together. If possible, the scrap material should be disinfected prior to shipping. Label and weigh the scrap material if applicable or required by the refining company. Insure the shipment, and contact the refiner to arrange for pickup. Verify that the refiner you are working with will compensate you for all of the precious metals gleaned from the scrap, not just gold. When deciding how much to insure a shipment for, ask the refiner for advice based on the type and amount of scrap. Some refiners provide preprinted shipping labels which include a standard amount of insurance.

4. Keep a detailed history of your scrap settlements, as this will enable you to track the income from your scrap as well as give you the information about the monetary value of your scrap for tax records. Additionally, keeping settlement records will motivate you to keep collecting as you see how much additional revenue can be generated.

Choose Your Scrap Refiner

With all the scrap metal refiners in the United States, how do you choose the right one? Dental scrap is truly a precious commodity. With the high prices of dental alloy these days, the dental practice owner should find an experienced, reliable, and reputable company to send their scrap—a company that does all the processing, assaying, and refining.

Most refiners handle the processing of your scrap in a similar manner. Material will be received, logged into the system, weighed, and put out for burning. The burning process will eliminate any combustible material. This material will be tumbled and sifted. Any solid material that does not sift after burning will be melted.

After processing, a net weight will be recorded and a representative sample will be drawn from the material. A pin sample or drill sample goes to the laboratory for assaying.

Make sure you get a detailed assay report that clearly shows metal recovery weights, prices, and value of each metal. By definition, assay is a quantitative determination in which a metal or metals are separated from impurities by fusion processes and weighed in order to determine the amount present in the original sample.

After receiving, processing, assaying, and settlement, the processed scrap is then refined to 99.99% pure, washed, dried, and supplied as shot or melted into bars. These pure metals are now ready for alloying.


Understanding the refining process and identifying a reputable company to provide fair value for your scrap may be a challenging and time-consuming task, but these days you owe it to yourself to do just that.

About the Author

Tony Circelli | Mr. Circelli’s career in the laboratory industry spans 35 years. He has been the manager of the Heraeus Scrap Division since 1993. For more information or to contact him directly, please call 574-299-5502 or e-mail

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