In dentistry today we still do not have one ideal material that is universally suitable for all situations. What we have is a range of materials each with different properties and characteristics. Your dentist will be happy to advise you on the most appropriate material for you. The main types are:
This is the silvery material used most widely for filling back teeth. It has been around in one form or another for over 100 years although recent improvements to its formulation have massively reduced its setting times and increased its strength.
A gold alloy is usually used because pure gold is quite soft. The use of gold has a long history and is a very suitable material for restoring teeth. It is very strong even in thin sections and lasts very well, especially in people with low decay rates.
This is a tooth coloured material based on a plastic resin with a glass filler. It is mainly used at the front of the mouth but can be carefully placed in back teeth.
Glass Ionomer Cements
These are materials based on acid soluble alumino fluoro-silicate glass. They are tooth coloured but have fairly low strength. However they release fluoride and so can be appropriate in some situations (e.g. for decay on exposed roots or in children).
Porcelain has been used as a tooth coloured alternative to gold because of its excellent appearance. However it can be a brittle material and it can fracture if over-stressed. It is still the most aesthetic filling material and recent improvements have made it stronger.