Gold has been used in dentistry for thousands of years. Higher grade gold is soft and would not survive a career of chewing, so dental gold is typically said to be around 10 – 16 karat. This estimate isn’t entirely true because dental restorations use not only gold, but alloys. An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals. The original dental alloy is gold-silver-copper. Since then, platinum group metals (PGM) have been used for their superior strength and their resistance to tarnishing.
In fact, some such ‘gold tooth’ alloys are silver-copper-PGM, using little or no gold! These alloys are made in any one of thousands of dental labs in different combinations. Refining a dental replacement means separating metal from non-metal, and it also means separating the different metals from the alloy. A refiner who accepts dental crowns should be willing to specify how much of each precious metal is recovered. It simply isn’t all 16 Karat gold.