The Smile Defining America's Favorite Game Show — Wheel Of Fortune
Within the first few minutes of talking with Vanna White, it is quite clear why she continues to be one of America's favorite television game show hosts. As she says when describing herself, “what you see is what you get!” And even though she has been a household legend for over two decades, she continues to radiate the warm, friendly, down-home appeal that you have when talking with a dear friend you have known for years.
Born on February 18, 1957 in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Vanna was raised by her mother, Joan, and stepfather, Herbert White Jr. After graduating from high school, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she attended the Atlanta School of Fashion and became one of the area's top models. However, she made Hollywood her home in 1980 and landed her job on Wheel of Fortune in 1982 as the first female co-host of a game show. At the time, she had beaten out 200 other hopeful applicants and had no idea that this single job would catapult her into international success that would lead to an NBC movie and a book deal in 1987 about her remarkable career. In 1992, White was recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as TV's most frequent clapper, with an average of 720 claps per show and over 28,000 per season. In 2006, she received her star on the famous “walk of fame.” And her infamous designer outfits on the Wheel of Fortune have now topped over 5,100 making her a fashionable, pop-culture icon. She also discovered a way to translate two of her passions, crocheting and helping children, into her own line of yarn called “Vanna's Choice.” Half of its proceeds are donated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. When off camera, Vanna leads a normal life and considers her favorite job as being a mom to her son and daughter.
In this exclusive article with Dear Doctor, Vanna opens up to Dr. Mario Vilardi, president and publisher of Dear Doctor, revealing many things about her life, career, and family that she has never discussed in previous interviews. She also shares several tips for maintaining her internationally famous smile — tips that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.
Given your beautiful and internationally famous smile, what oral health care steps do you take to maintain your smile?
I floss every day and I brush at least twice a day — morning and night — and sometimes after lunch. And thatís basically it. I think that flossing is the most important thing. I believe that dental floss helps a lot as it keeps your gums strong and looking younger.
How often do you have your teeth professionally cleaned?
I have them cleaned every four to five months because I get a lot of plaque buildup [giggle]. This seems odd to talk about...[giggle] but it's true. It's just that I never have really discussed my oral hygiene in an interview before — but I really do have plaque buildup. So every four or five months, I go in to get my teeth cleaned.
Years ago, you endorsed a tooth whitening product. What are your thoughts or experiences on home bleaching versus professional bleaching?
I can't recommend one over the other, because I know there are some good products out in the market today. Of course anything you can do professionally is probably better because I would assume that a dentist's ingredients are stronger than over-the-counter products. But I do feel that if people are insecure or feel uncomfortable with the color of their teeth, and want to do something about that — then absolutely, why not do it?
You have acknowledged in previous interviews that you wore braces during your childhood. Please share with our readers some of your memories of your experience.
I only had to wear them for a year and it was a good experience for me. My son has had braces, and it is interesting how they have changed over the years. We used to have those silver bands that went all the way around each tooth and they don't have that anymore. It is fascinating to see how far they have come. I have also noticed that kids today look forward to having braces where as when I was a teenager it was like “oh, no I have to wear braces?”
And by the way, my son recently got his braces off! I honestly think I am more excited than he is and I don't know why — but I am.
Other than braces, have you ever had any cosmetic dentistry done like veneers, teeth whitening?
I am very fortunate. I happen to have really white teeth. I'm not sure why that is. I guess the enamel on my teeth is pretty good. But I would say once or maybe twice a year I will do a little bleaching, because I do drink coffee and occasionally some red wine. I have done over the counter and professional bleaching, but I do like the trays my dentist made because they fit perfectly.
As for cosmetic dentistry...I had a bridge put in probably 30 years ago, where I had a tooth pulled and there was a space. And I did have a little tiny chip on one of my front teeth years ago that my dentist filed down. But that is it. Again, I feel very fortunate to have good teeth. The braces straightened them out and there has been no need for any cosmetics since then.
Some people have fear when going to the dentist and thus they use sedation dentistry. Have you ever tried that?
No! I don't have any problems with going to the dentist. For me it is relaxing and maybe that is odd to say but it is true. I am laying in their chair for an hour or however long getting my teeth cleaned. It is not painful. [Giggle] Um, it is kind of relaxing. And even with those times that I have had to have a filling, they give you a shot. Ok, there's a little prick, but after that it doesn't hurt. You are completely numb...I don't know, maybe I just have a great dentist. And by the way, I have had the same dentist since I moved to Los Angeles in 1980, Dr. Eugene Bock.
Do you sleep in a mouthguard to protect your teeth while you sleep?
I do sleep in a nightguard because I grind my teeth. I have a filling in the back that probably has been filled five times [giggle] from grinding. Where the filling is I keep grinding it loose so I finally did get a nightguard. Now, do I sleep with it every night? No. [giggle] Should I? Yes! [more laughter]. I really try to sleep in it every night but I don't. When I first started wearing it, it was uncomfortable but now it is not. I try to keep it on my nightstand so when I do go to bed that I remember to put it in. Or I will put it by my toothbrush so I can put it in after brushing my teeth at night.
Based on understanding the importance of protecting your teeth, do either of your children wear a professional mouthguard while playing sports?
Yes, both of my children do have mouthguards that they wear for their sports.
For some people it is all about the eyes. For others it is the smile. When you meet people, what do you notice first? And what importance do you place on their smile?
Hmmm...that's a very good question. I must say I probably notice both. First I look into a person's eyes and then I look to see if they have a genuine smile that validates what I see in their eyes.
Regarding children and their traditional love of candy, as a parent, do you have any rules for eating or not eating candy...especially around the candy filled holidays?
Well, I never really gave them sweets when they were young so they really never knew the difference. Then of course when they got a little older and they started with birthday parties, they did begin to eat sweets; but, they are good brushers and really take good care of their teeth.
And where do you think they picked that up? From you or did your dentist instruct them?
I think they learned it from me. You know they always say that people follow in their parents' footsteps. Well they see me working out, they see me brushing my teeth, and taking care of myself so they do the same. But they are lucky like me and have really good teeth.
What about fluoride treatments, did your children ever have them?
Absolutely! When they were younger, I followed my pediatrician's advice and got them fluoride treatments. This was because they were drinking bottled water and weren't getting the fluoride they needed. In fact, I am so proud to say that neither of my children have ever had a cavity!
If we interviewed your children, what would they tell us about your rules for their oral healthcare?
Brush your teeth! [Giggle] My children have their own bathrooms upstairs that they use, but I have toothbrushes for them in the kitchen so after breakfast and before school they don't have to go back upstairs to brush their teeth. They brush them in the kitchen! Y'all are hearing things that no one has ever heard before! [Laughter]
Regarding your Vannamania fans, what is it like to have people always coming up to you and sharing their feelings about your hair, clothing, and style?
I always am told things like, ‘I loved that blue dress you had on’ or ‘I don't like you with short hair — let it grow.’ But I love my fans and all fans have their own opinions about everything. And that's fine because I like hearing what they like and don't like and I try to change what I can.
Is there anything you dislike about your smile?
No, but I will tell you what Pat (Sajak) has said to me before. You know, I have worn well over 5,000 gowns on the show over the 27 years and I don't necessarily like all of my outfits. Pat has told me, ‘I can just see that smile is not quite as big as it usually is’ so he knows and can tell when I'm thinking ‘I wish I wasn't wearing this dress!’ But that is not too often!
Speaking of Pat Sajak, what is he really like? Please describe your working relationship.
Working with him has been a blast! He is funny — we are like brother and sister off camera. And after 27 years of working together, we can almost finish each other's sentences. We also have never had one argument in all those years.
As this article reveals, Vanna White is a professional, working mom who loves both her job and her children. And even though she is on television each night, she is not that different from many mothers across America. She understands the importance of excellent oral healthcare and is ensuring that her children do the same. She also is realistic, honest, and practical. Dear Doctor encourages all parents and caregivers to follow her example in achieving and maintaining optimal oral and overall health.