At Manhattan Gold & Silver, one of our biggest client bases comes from the dental industry. Not many people are familiar with the intricacies of gold use in a dental practice, but there are many interesting facets of dental gold and how it functions in the mouth.
The mouth is a tough environment for just about any substance. After all, the mouth’s purpose is to break down food. Gold is one of those unique materials that can stand up to the punishment the mouth dishes out. Gold is completely inert to all body chemistry, so it won’t corrode in the mouth. It’s also tough enough to stand up to chewing and biting, so it’s an ideal material to use in crowns, fillings, and bridgework.
However, because the mouth is such a tough environment, pure gold is not used in dentistry. As you may know, pure gold is extremely malleable – so 24k gold would likely become deformed in the mouth over time. As such, dental gold is usually a 16k alloy containing other metals such as palladium, silver, copper and/or tin. This fact combined with the small size of the dental implant means that any one crown or bridge is not worth that much in gold. The real money comes in when you can collect a bunch of these, but is usually only possible if you are a dentist.
Sometimes, when dental gold is brought to a refiner, it’s still stuck to the tooth. Techniques for removing the tooth vary, but popular methods include using a jewelers hammer or an overnight soaking in cola to loosen the bond and remove the gold. We would melt and assay the material.
Today, fillings are more commonly made of other less expensive and/or cosmetically desirable substances like mercury amalgam or polymer compounds. However, gold is still the strongest and longest lasting material a dentist can use. Amalgam we do not process because it contains mercury.