Action 13 gets smile back for girl after Medicaid stops paying

Saturday, May 16, 2015
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When a teen relying on Medicaid was told the program no longer covered her much needed dental surgery, she turned to ABC-13

HOUSTON -- Your smile says a lot about you. When a Houston teen relying on Medicaid was told the program no longer covered her much needed dental surgery, she was devastated. That's when the girl's sister reached out to Action 13.

It's not Mercedes Zavala's fault her smile is less than perfect. The 16 year old was born missing several permanent teeth. Enrolled in Medicaid, Zavala did everything she was told to prepare for permanent implants.

"I had braces for almost five years," said Zavala.

But just as she was ready for the last step in the procedure, she was hit with bad news.

"We were told that Medicaid was going to cover the implants, and now they are not," said Zavala.

Alexandra Stanick is Mercedes' sister and legal guardian. Without Medicaid, the full cost of getting dental implants would fall on Stanick's shoulders.

"And here we are at the end, and we are being told no, it's considered cosmetic surgery. It's going to be $13,000," said Stanick.

Stanick asked Action 13 for help, and we asked Houston cosmetic dentist Dr. Terri Alani if she could take a look. Her recommendation was a Snap on Smile.

"What the Snap on Smile is, it not only covers the missing teeth, it covers all the teeth, so it gives you a little bit better smile. I see you smiling, it's a better aesthetic look," said Alani.

Alani specializes in Snap on Smiles, and her patients' before and after pictures tell the story. The removable device looks like and feels like the real thing at a fraction of the cost.

Zavala and her sister agreed. Alani spent the next month working with Zavala, taking molds and getting to know her.

Finally, after weeks of waiting, Alani gave Mercedes something she's always wanted, a smile worth sharing.

When asked how she felt after seeing herself with a full smile for the first time, Mercedes responded, "Cute!"

And her sister agreed.

"Oh my God. She looks beautiful," said Stanick.

As if Zavala needed another reason to smile, Alani waived all the fees and costs associated with the procedure.

If you ever see Zavala in person, you'll know her in an instant. She's the girl with the perfect smile.