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DES MOINES, Iowa — Dr. Bob Margeas has been working on people’s smiles for more than 25 years. He’s seen just about every type of decay and disease there is –- including a genetic disorder that only affects 1-in-14,000 people. Amelogenesis Imperfecta or “AI” is a horrible condition. One Lexie Blonigan’s been dealing with since she was a toddler.

Sixteen years ago, the Blonigan’s insurance company refused to cover treatment. But Lexie’s mom refused to take no for an answer. “At the time they were claiming it was cosmetic,” Tori Blonigan told us back then. “For my 2-year-old.”

Blonigan fought for and got coverage in 1999 and again in 2009, and the fight continued this year. Because of Tori’s persistence – Wellmark agreed to cover the work. “Her mother really went to bat for her,” says Dr. Margeas. “That was key in this situation.”

But before Dr. Margeas could start building Lexie’s smile, he had to remove the caps that had gotten her through childhood. “It was almost like Christmas,” he says. “You didn’t know what was under those teeth until you cut them off.”

There wasn’t wasn’t much left of Lexie’s teeth, but it was enough for him to do his work. “She was a great patient,” he says. “She spent a lot of hours in the chair, four appointments of at least four-to-five hours each.”

So after years of physical and emotional pain, Lexie’s smile is no longer in hiding. “I’m so close to living the life I’ve wanted,” she says. “To be happy, and not ashamed, and to be able to eat steak!”

Steak is a big deal because her whole life there’s been a long list of foods that were off limits. Foods she can’t wait to eat. “Number two would be an Italian Grinder…three, pork chops…four, an apple…five, corn on the cob….”

Getting Lexie to this point has been a team effort. Her childhood dentist, Dr. Joseph Barsetti is seeing her new smiles for the first time and the results almost bring him to tears. “It’s amazing,” he says. “It’s wonderful!”

The Blonigans give all the credit to these doctors, but Lexie also knows a lot of the credit for her new smile goes to her mom. “It means a lot to have someone as an advocate to fight for you when you can’t fight for yourself. That’s something I’m blessed with and a lot of people don’t have that.”

Tori says the 16-year battle was worth it. “It has been an exhausting time, but the reward in the end, is in the smile.”