Winter Newsletter 2021

We see work and love coincide as beautifully as a Guatemalan tapestry through stories shared by volunteers, staff, and students connecting in Open Wide clinics. We are learning from them that it is the heart that leads volunteers to cross a border, to explore culture, and offer themselves up through the work of dentistry.

It is the heart that inspires them to return to their homes and practices and share their experiences. And it is the heart that leads them back to serve again. We are humbled and inspired by the heart-center professionalism of our volunteers and all who work and love to make Open Wide so impactful in so many lives. We are grateful for the work they do and the inspiration they give us to continue this important work!

It’s been ten years since the first Open Wide clinic opened its doors to patients in Peronia, Guatemala. On January 21, 2011, several hundred community members and officials showed up for the new clinic inauguration with lines of people circling the building waiting to get a look inside. This fanfare and curiosity were surprising to the American volunteers attending that day. But for the long disregarded town of Peronia, the day was remarkable. Never before had this community received such recognition; a new dental clinic with American-made, state-of-the-art equipment donated by American dental companies stood at the ready to bring dental care to people where few options had existed before. Even more remarkable is the imprint this work has had on us, the volunteers, the donors, and the sponsors. A series of stories will be released to illuminate our journey over the next months. Stay

“The last week of February marked my fifth trip to Guatemala as a volunteer with the Open Wide Foundation. I traveled with my colleagues, Spear dentists Dr. Everett Heringer and Dr. Rick Timm, along with our families and staff from our practices. It was inconceivable at the time that the trip would mark the last week of volunteers in the Open Wide clinic for the remainder of 2020 due to the global emergence of COVID-19. When I returned home to Atlanta, I presented a photo slideshow of our trip to my staff and listened to the office buzz… “Dr. Merriman just returned from Guatemala …” It became clear to me that my patient community wanted to know what I do beyond this practice. Sharing my contribution to the story of Open Wide makes my staff and patients proud to incorporate “How we give back” into our office culture…”

This year we had the opportunity to support dental philanthropy projects within the borders of the United States. Starting inMarch and April, Open Wide received countless offers to donate equipment from practices that were closing across the country. We connected with the America’sDentist Care Foundation which channeled the large in-kind donations to a national network of free public dental clinics and events designed to serve low-income families. We also partnered with Spear Cares and Arizona Mission of Mercy to pack and distribute 1,000 oral health care kits with the goal to bring much-needed resources to communities of need in the Phoenix area

Currently, the Peronia clinic has re-opened and is functioning under their Phase 1 COVID protocol. This phase will focus on the nonaerosol generating Silver Diamine Fluoride treatment for patients. Thank you to our Ambassadors who consulted with the local staff to help ensure a safe re-opening.


Deev Patel is a sophomore studying in Glendale, Arizona. He has a demonstrated interest in pursuing a career in a healthcare-related field. During the summer of 2020, Deev approached the Foundation to explore volunteer opportunities to support dental services to underserved individuals and families. Deev also was one of many volunteers who helped pack dental bags for underserved individuals in Arizona.

Collectively our motivated group of Ambassadors decided that they want to receive updates from Open Wide founders and staff on a quarterly basis. Topics of conversation in the last meeting in November covered how our Guatemalan partners are dealing with the pandemic and their progress toward re-opening clinics. Along with closely monitoring the impacts of COVID in Guatemala, Ambassadors are helping to share the story of Open Wide with their local networks and in their own practices. We know the most effective way to encourage new volunteers is through the stories our ambassadors share about their experiences on trips. We couldn’t be more grateful for their sustained support, especially during turbulent 2020!

We had the opportunity to connect with over 100 Dentists at Virtual Spear Summit in 2020. Though we sorely missed connecting with many of our volunteers and donors live as we have done for the last nine Spear Summits, the opportunity to connect virtually allowed us to share with more participants than
ever before!

“Two weeks ago at our annual Spear Faculty Club event, we launched the Open Wide Foundation, a project that has been close to my heart for some time now. The goal of the foundation is simple: to bring the life-changing benefits of dentistry to those who need it most desperately. We’re starting with a clinic in Peronia, Guatemala. When I first started discussing the idea for the foundation, I knew I could expect support, but even I have to admit I wasn’t prepared for how enthusiastic the response has been. My partner, Dr. Glen Wysel, and his wife Lisa, put our hearts (and time and resources) into the project from the start. Our partners in the industry stepped up in a big way by donating equipment to the clinic we’re building. And now, in just the two weeks since the launch, you are coming forward to say, “I want to be involved in this.” 150 dentists contributing over $180,000. 125 of those dentists committed to providing one week of care in the clinic. This is what I mean about really experiencing the effects of abundance and gratitude. Working on this project and seeing this response has energized me like nothing else I’ve done—and that feeling is carrying over to everything I do. It has changed the way I approach
challenges and the way I interact with people every day. It’s true: You never feel richer than when you have the opportunity to give in a truly significant way. To all of you who have made the launch of the Open Wide Foundation so successful, I offer my heartfelt thanks. And thank you as well to those of you who are going to join us and help make this foundation an ongoing testament to the life-changing power of dentistry. You can access Imtiaz’s archive Digest article here.