Second Opinion: Should you change your scrap recycling program?

2019 03 18 23 14 3974 Palladium Element 400

Of the many things on your mind as a dentist, the price of precious metals may not be the first thing you think about. However, with the recent jump in the price of palladium, you may wish to reconsider your practice's scrap recycling procedures.

Bob Torrissi is the vice president of Garfield Refining.Bob Torrissi is the vice president of Garfield Refining.

Used in crowns, bridges, and porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns, palladium is a precious metal like gold but has a higher melting point and is easier to alloy with other materials. Palladium is also harder and more scratch-resistant than platinum and has become widely used in casting crowns and bridges. In addition to its beneficial properties, palladium has been traditionally much cheaper than gold, making it a cost-effective metal to use in dental alloys.

But, that's all changing. Since August 2018, the price of refined palladium has increased from about $850 per ounce to about $1,500 per ounce, according to Markets Insider. Thus, the palladium-rich dental scrap left over from the removal of crowns, bridges, and porcelain-fused metals is more valuable than at previous times.

In a dental office, dental scrap recycling is often only considered when the need to recycle arises. In our experience, dental practices use a cash buyer who might weigh the scrap and provide a fixed rate per gram on the spot, based solely on visual observation and speculation.

“These offers cannot properly account for palladium content.”

These offers cannot properly account for palladium content. With the abundance of palladium-rich dental scrap, offices may be losing money by continuing this practice rather than working with a refiner.

In our experience, the best way for practices to maximize the revenue on dental scrap is to properly recycle it with a reputable metal refinery that melts and assays precious metals in-house. This is the most reliable way to get an accurate analysis of your dental scrap's composition and value.

It's worth noting that the price of palladium may not stay at these high levels. Many practitioners may not know that palladium is also a key component in reducing vehicle emissions and is used in the manufacturing process of certain electronic and mechanical equipment. A severe lack of supply and overabundance of demand have contributed to the price increase. But as manufacturing companies adapt to these higher prices and find other, more cost-effective solutions, demand -- and the price -- of palladium could fall back to more historic levels.

While the recycling and proper disposal of dental scrap are something that all dentistry practices must consider, these processes can be viewed not as sunk costs but as a way to potentially increase a practice's cash flow.

Bob Torrissi is the vice president of Garfield Refining.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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