Is dentist obligated to return patient's gold crown of extracted tooth?
April 5, 2012 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Is dentist required to return a gold crown of extracted molar to patient?

X-rays show that a back molar (#31) has decayed areas under gold crown and bone around the tooth has receded. The molar has a gold crown covering over 50% of the tooth. Dentist recommends pulling tooth and having bone graft done. The cost of extraction and graft will be about $1,000.00.

The dentist has mentioned nothing about returning my gold crown. Is it mine to keep or is it typical that dentists keep the used gold for their benefit? With today's price of gold, is this an issue I should raise with dentist or is the amount of gold so trivial in a crown it's a 'nit-pik' issue?
posted by kartguy to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ask for it as a memento.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is no reason not to ask for it. I kept my gold crown, and they seemed surprised, but i dont know why, since it is something you can take to a scrap dealer for cash. (this may seem strange, but occasionally teeth with fillings get sold at yard sales, estate sales, and the antique dealers who buy them scrap them).
posted by instead of three wishes at 10:34 AM on April 5, 2012

Well, he can't give you the tooth as it's considered infectious waste. But you'd have to ask him if he can separate the crown from the tooth so it could be returned to you.
posted by inturnaround at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dad has all of his extracted molars in with the tooth washers in his nuts and bolts organizer. He specifically asked his dentist if he could have them.

They dispose of things like that as a courtesy but will give them to you if you ask.
posted by cakebatter at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2012

Some quick googling suggests that a full gold crown weighs between 2-3 grams, 40-80% of which will actually be gold. So assuming a half crown is 1-1.5g, it's worth between $25 and $70. Probably enough to bother with.
posted by zug at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2012

Well, he can't give you the tooth as it's considered infectious waste. But you'd have to ask him if he can separate the crown from the tooth so it could be returned to you.

Is this true? I got my teeth when they were pulled, and a couple of my friends got to keep their wisdom teeth once they were pulled. Maybe there's a way to sterilize them?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:39 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I had my wisdom teeth out, I didn't even ask for them, but my oral surgeon gave them to my anyway.

I don't remember leaving the office or anything, but I remember that I woke up at home, rolled over and there was a little plastic bag with my teeth in it.

I assumed it was some sort of "Dentist Mafioso" warning or something.

Anyway. Point being. Dude gave me my teeth, so it's clearly possible.
posted by dotgirl at 10:39 AM on April 5, 2012 [7 favorites]

Ah, I've done more research into this. "OSHA considers extracted teeth to be potentially infectious material that should be disposed into medical waste containers"

But: "Extracted teeth may be returned to the patients upon request and are not subject to the provisions of the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard."

Sorry I misspoke.
posted by inturnaround at 10:44 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The last time I had a wisdom tooth out. They didn't offer to give it to me, but they let me keep it upon request. I'm pretty sure using the gold cap on an extracted tooth is both more work than it's worth if you're making Dentist Money and also a breach of some code of ethics or another.
posted by griphus at 10:46 AM on April 5, 2012

The gold in gold crowns is an alloy (and there are several, with varying amounts of gold), so you may not get as much for it as you might think, but yes, in short, if you ask for it, it will likely be handed to you without a blink.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2012

he can't give you the tooth as it's considered infectious waste

When I asked for mine, my dentist said something like that, then wrapped up my tooth in a napkin and gave it to me anyway, with a smile.

As for gold crowns, I've had two replaced, and my dentist gave me the old ones back without my even asking. You can get some money for them from certain "we Buy Gold" places, or so I've heard, but it'll be via mail order and you have to specify that it's "dental gold" (which is blended or an amalgam with another metal, so you're not going to receive the current spot Au price for 'em).
posted by Rash at 11:04 AM on April 5, 2012

Depending on your state and local regulations, your dentist may be quite eager to give it to you. Gold teeth are an amalgam that cannot be disposed of safely in an incinerator like most medical waste, and so the procedures for disposal may be expensive. Here is what the CDC has to say, extracted teeth both are and aren't infectious waste.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:41 PM on April 5, 2012

My dentist offered my "gold crown" to me. I declined. He said there really is very little gold in it. The tooth that had the crown, previously had a very large gold cap thing. The dentist gave it to me.

I also have my dentists offer to give me my wisdom teeth. I also declined.

They always want to give me back my teeth and crowns. The last thing I want is a momento of a bad tooth.
posted by fifilaru at 3:51 PM on April 5, 2012

Ask for it back, but do cash it in, otherwise the end result is what I encountered often enough as the Head of the Jewellery, Couture, Timepieces & Objet de Vertu department at an at an auction house. As was said in the thread, lots of people have their gold-filled teeth (and bridges) returned to them. It's lovely when people actually benefit themselves by cashing them in, or finding a creative use for them. I've had pieces of jewellery where baby teeth were made into brooches with the teeth as lilies-of-the-valley; I've had animal teeth and the odd human molar made into watch fobs; I've had just the little twisty bits of pried-out gold. As well, I've had the typical hair jewellery and such pass through my hands, and they were commonplace to me. I'd been selling antique jewellery for years, and finished products from these items were just something of the time.

But some people didn't actually cash their gold fillings in, and they'd sit in a jewellery box or drawer until they'd pass away, and it came time for the auction house to sell the items from the estate. So, our crew would go in to pack up the house, the items only sorted as far as logical departments went, and I'd get everything under my domain in big cardboard boxes for me to poke through, one piece at a time, in order to list and value and then offer for sale.

I'm not a particularly excitable person, but in my early days there, I'd unwrap an innocent-looking napkin only to find teeth (everything from wee baby teeth to hoary or yellow creepy molars), and bridges with teeth, or clumps of weird wiry hair, or sometimes, if the crew was feeling frisky, jars with (what I think were) gallstones or fingernail clippings (or in one memorable time, a glass eyeball). And then I'd shriek at the unexpected and drop it and do the "I Touched Dead People's Body Things Dance" and it would resonate through the building and my co-workers would come running. After a while, they grew immune and would just look up and say "peagood found teeth again."

But after a while I became accustomed to it. Nobody hides things that are pleasant wrapped in tissue in top drawers, that I knew before long. I was, perhaps even callous, and yes, disrespectful. In the time between when I'd receive the gold that needed to be extracted, tested, weighed and valued still in the tooth and when I'd have to do the work to get it out, my co-workers might find their apple in the fridge sitting on the shelf, waiting to bite them with someone else's teeth, and I would calmly sit there, measuring diamonds and waiting for their shrieks.

So if you get the gold in your teeth back, do cash it in before too long. Not because people like me, who are otherwise respectful and generally very kind may not be able to resist a little posthumous prank - but because your families do not want that wee bit of gold bad enough to deal with it themselves upon your passing.
posted by peagood at 7:12 PM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I know this is an old thread but I just wanted to add what my dentist said to me regarding my gold crown:

"It's gold, you paid for it, it's yours. So if we ever need to take it out, you'd get it back".
posted by eatcake at 5:21 AM on September 2, 2012

« Older Help me figure out how much I owe the taxman   |   It just might be easier to build one from scratch.... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.