What habits and foods stain your teeth? As you might imagine, intensely colored foods and beverages tend to be the biggest offenders. Imagine what can badly stain the perfect white shirt. The same stands true for the teeth. The more intense the color, the more potential there is for staining. The biggest offenders are red wine, cola, black tea and coffee. The color in these foods and beverages comes from chromogens, intensely pigmented molecules with an unfortunate penchant for latching on to dental enamel.

But the presence of chromogens isn’t the only thing that determines the staining potential of foods and beverages. Acidity is another factor. Acidic foods and beverages -- including some that are not brightly colored -- promote staining by eroding the dental enamel, temporarily softening teeth and making it easier for pigment to latch on. Imagine the staining potential of dark coffee with high acidity and abundance of chromogens. And finally, a family of food compounds known as tannins promotes staining by further boosting chromogens’ ability to attach to enamel.