Metal alloys play a huge part in modern day dentistry, from tools to fillings. And if you ever wondered how much the fillings in your mouth are worth, you’ve come to the right place.

Legend has it that George Washington’s presidential dentures were made of wooden teeth, which would have made chewing a chore. (As it turns out this was fake news ­– they were actually ivory dentures).

Luckily, dentistry has gone from leaps and bounds since those days. Metal now plays an essential part in dental care, forming the tools necessary to scrape, clean and drill teeth. Of course, metals are also used to fill the gaps in teeth, making it possible for people to enjoy the joys of a hot cup of tea or a cool ice cream. And if your teeth fillings contain a gold alloy, they could be worth more than you think.

The tools of the trade

Today, dentists use a wide range of specialised instruments made with metal alloys.

Probes – Dentists use hand-held stainless-steel probes and sharp-pointed tools including sickles.

Suction Equipment – A saliva ejector works as a vacuum to remove the excess mouth moisture – and is usually made up of metals including iron, zinc and copper alloys.

Drill – This instrument makes holes to remove decay or plaque from a cavity. Dental drills are constructed from metals and polymers including brass, titanium, tungsten carbide and steel.

Mirror – This is a round mirror at the end of a stainless-steel handle for greater visibility. These mirrors are made from surgical grade stainless-steel, so they never rust.

Forceps – Dental forceps extract teeth, and are made up of a beak, neck and handle. These are also manufactured from a special surgical stainless-steel.

Filling Tools ­– Filling instruments are used to fill gaps around the teeth and gums. Fillings can be made of titanium, cobalt-chrome, nickel-chrome, silver amalgam, high copper amalgam, and yes, gold alloys.

A gold mine in your mouth

Do you have a gold-filled crown or bridge – or possibly more than one? If you do, you’re about to learn how much your teeth could be worth – but please, do not be tempted to remove your teeth and cash in on your old fillings, because a mouth full of teeth is worth a lot more.

How much is your tooth really worth?

The typical gold dental crown is around 16 karats (which is 67% gold). This alloy typically also contains amounts of palladium, platinum and silver. An average full “gold” crown generally weighs 2.5 grams. At the time of writing, the price of gold is $56 a gram. So, if the crown’s weight is 2.5g, and its alloy is 16 karats (67% gold), its value should be $93.80. However, companies specialising in buying dental gold generally pay out 85% of the gold’s value (to account for refining costs and to make a little profit to stay in business). This leaves you with an underwhelming amount of $79.93.

$56(price per gram) x 2.5(weight factor) x .85(refining fee) x .67(karat adjustment) = $79.93

This amount is not going to break the bank. So please avoid the temptation to hock off a few of your gold-filled teeth or crowns just yet. After all, it’s not worth breaking up your million-dollar smile for some small change.