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Author Topic: Member Interesting, Hair Raising, Humorous or Otherwise Unusual Experiences  (Read 3571 times)

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Agelbert: I was thinking the other day about my deceased dentist brother in law. He did his own lab work to increase his profit on crowns and such. I understand that dentists, like jewelers, could purchase gold when it was technically illegal to purchase it back before 1977 (approximate year).

I know jewelers do not pay the retail price. Do dentists get a similar discount? I know you folks don't use gold and silver as much as you used to, but I don't know whether you stopped using it altogether.

Can you enlighten me?

You are correct that dentists were allowed to legally possess gold after Roosevelt confiscated the gold of American citizens.
At that time, it was necessary to confiscate gold to keep people from using it as a substitute for currency, so that the USD could be devalued. By raising the price of gold from $20.67 to $35, the USD lost 40% of its buying power in one day.

Dental gold is not sold to dentists at a discount. It actually costs more, because it passes through an extra middle man, the dental gold refiners. There are four basic kinds of dental gold, and now (because gold is ultra expensive) many substitutes. Pure gold is too soft for dental work, and the different dental golds differ mainly by hardness. They are alloys, containing mostly gold and silver, and some platinum and/or palladium.

Many so-called "gold" crowns and bridges contain zero gold. That has been one way unscrupulous dentists have bilked patients and insurance companies over the last generation, although now it's getting harder to do, since some insurance companies demand to see lab receipts proving that the gold charge is legitimate.

Gold is still a fine material to use where esthetics aren't important, and when base metals are substituted, some sensitive patients have allergic symptoms. 

Gold will be around for a while in dentistry, but zirconium is rapidly becoming a cheaper, and still very acceptable substitute. And zirconium, although technically a metal, does not look like metal. It looks like porcelain.

As for me, I did stop doing silver fillings some years back and no longer keep silver on hand. I never actually kept silver metal  (or mercury) anyway, since I bought pre-capped amalgam (more convenient and safer for staff).  I still do a fair number of gold crowns, but I don't have an in-house lab.

The amount of gold in a crown might be 3-5 pennyweights (a pennyweight or dwt is 1/20 of a Troy oz.) so a typical gold cost for a crown is roughly $150 to $250. To that add typical lab labor and you get the doctor's lab bill for the crown, $300 to $500. So a crown you pay $1200 for amounts to $700 to $900 for the dentist's time and skill.

A zirconium crown total fee is still $1200, but the lab bill might be $200 total. You can see why zirconium is getting more popular with dentists. Patients do like the esthetics, as the crowns are now quite life-like in appearance.


 Thank you for filling in all the blanks I had on gold and dentistry. I had no idea they were using zirconium.
Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. Pr. 22:22-23


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