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On the front lines of ‘an urban gold rush’

United States – A recent survey shows that some 30% of dental offices in the USA fail to collect the precious metals in dental restorations after being replaced, says Atlantic Precious Metal Refining. A further 30% of those asked do collect but sell their scrap based on a ‘guesstimate’ of the dental fixtures’ weight and colour.

Most alloys used in dental crowns and bridges contain three or four precious metals in varying amounts, including gold, silver, platinum and palladium. ‘Aside from missing out on the full value of the natural resource you hold, a lack of attention in this area could mean the unnecessary risk of loss or theft,’ says Atlantic’s vice president of operations Tom Mappin.

There have been numerous examples of dental offices being vandalised for denture scrap. Worst of all is to not collect these highly valuable metals and lose them forever into a landfill or biohazard waste disposal,’ argues Mappin. ‘It is far more costly on our wallets and environment to mine an ounce of gold than it is to recycle it. It would actually be best to think about each crown as if it were a US$ 10 or US$ 20 bill. What would you do with one of those lying on the instrument tray after a procedure? Sterilise and save it!’

Mappin issues a rallying call: ‘Consider yourself on the front lines of an urban gold rush of sorts.’ How? By following a ‘simple’ four-step plan: collect the dental restorations as they are removed; sterilise the material; store it in a secure place; and finally, recycle it according to a regular schedule.

Integrating recycling into a dentist’s daily routine not only minimises the threat from theft but also provides a steady revenue stream and ‘eliminates the mystery around the value of scrap’, says Mappin.

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