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The Changing Face of Refining
Making the most of the scrap refining-dental laboratory partnership.
Our industry is changing rapidly, and while there are more material choices today in manufacturing dental restorations, alloy remains an important part of a laboratory’s workflow. As long as precious metals are part of a laboratory’s product offerings, a trusted and competent dental refining partner is crucial to its bottom line.
Even with the addition of all-ceramic materials, dental laboratories depend on alloys for porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM), full-cast restorations, removable partial dentures, and other types of dental restorations. Gold and palladium are by far the highest scrap metal sent in by dental laboratory owners. Today’s high gold prices means returns on gold-containing dental scrap is very rewarding for laboratory owners and their dentists. However, palladium pricing has historically been more volatile than gold—all the more reason to refine regularly.
The increased use of metal-free dental options and dental laboratory CAD/CAM technology has impacted the refining business in a number of ways. For laboratories that have moved primarily to digital output, and thus rely to a lesser degree on precious metals for their restorative processes, the frequency, and total annual refining proceeds of the laboratory can change as a result. The use of more non-precious and non-metal materials across the board means that a refiner must be capable of effectively handling increasingly complex scrap that is a mix of precious and non-precious alloys and other materials, such as investment or aluminum oxide.
The value of refining dental scrap regularly cannot be emphasized enough, even if dental laboratory owners are using less alloy than they did a few
years ago. Those refining checks add up.
Building a Relationship
The relationship between a dental laboratory and its refiner is extremely important for both parties. Refiners can become better partners with their dental laboratory customers by doing the following: Taking the time to understand the unique business requirements each laboratory has to be successful; consistently providing the best possible refining yields; and offering the highest level of services and accountability. Integrated dental alloy and refining companies that combine complete systems, materials, and dental education offer scrap customers the best of all worlds.
The best partnership between a laboratory and a refiner comes with a long-term relationship and the availability of historical scrap data. For example, if a laboratory owner consistently
refines the same amount of scrap at the same times each year, and is using the same alloy mix from year-to-year, the percentage-returns can be compared over time as an extra form of checks and balances. If there is any abnormality, it can bring to light some internal controls that need to be implemented in the laboratory.
Getting the Most Out of Alloy Use
A scrap-refining partner should work directly with dental laboratories to get the most out of their alloy use in addtion to the greatest monetary return on their scrap. There are three things that every dental laboratory should do to accomplish this.
1. Strive to maintain the lowest scrap-to-alloy ratio possible. Ratios typically range between 15% and 30%, which is consistent with studies on fabrication loss and reflects the average range of scrap generation. The amount of precious metal scrap that a laboratory generates in relation to its dental alloy consumption is a perpetual indicator of a laboratory’s efficiency and, ultimately, its profitability.
2. Implement inventory controls designed to track alloy purchases; movements to and from fabrication activities; and depletion of precious metals. This can establish a clear relationship between scrap and alloy use. When the scrap-to-alloy ratio falls well below 10% or rises above 25%, corrective actions can be taken.
3. Use good housekeeping practices, such as weighing grindings and filings after every shift and installing natural-backed, work-area carpet that can be refined. Inadequate scrap collection is one of the primary reasons for unaccounted metal losses.
One of the biggest changes in dental laboratory scrap refining has been the entrance of non-dental scrap-handlers because of the high gold prices. However, many dental laboratories have had poor results with refiners not experienced in the dental industry.
Despite non-dental entities entering the dental refining arena, dental laboratory owners can be assured that there are qualified, financially healthy dental refining companies upon whom they can rely. Experienced dental refiners have dental metallurgists and chemists who can ensure dental laboratory scrap is refined correctly and can provide the specific services to help laboratory owners increase laboratory efficiency and profits.
Dental laboratories and refiners have had a strong connection for as long as there have been alloy-based dental restorations. Despite the changes in dentistry, this relationship will continue because when a laboratory owner chooses a refiner, he or she picks a partner who can help increase that laboratory’s bottom line.
Kevin Mahan is the vice president of sales at Jensen Dental in North Haven, Connecticut.
Find a local refiner near you:
Accurate Metals & Refining
Albar Precious Metal Refining
Pompano Beach, FL
Santa Ana, CA
The Argen Corporation
San Diego, CA
Atlantic Precious Metal Refining
Aurum Precious Metals
Pompano Beach, FL
New Hyde Park, NY
DDS Refining, a Division of Medidenta
Ann Arbor, MI
General Refining Corporation
North Haven, CT
Maguire Refining, Inc.
Northeastern Metals & Chemicals
Pease & Currens
Precious Metal Refining Servies, Inc.
West Bloomfield, MI
So Accurate Group, Inc.
Long Island City, NY