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Giving Back to Our Community

Spear Open Wide is a non-profit organization on a mission to bring lasting change to the state of oral health in underserved communities worldwide.

A family and cosmetic dentist serving the Atlanta area, Dr.Jim Merriman and his team see all kinds of patients— from checkups and cleanings to placing and restoring dental implants, we see a wide spectrum of patients. Dr. Merriman and his family recently went on Spear Institute’s Open Wide Mission Trip to Guatemala, and they were both fortunate and proud to care for those less fortunate that don’t have the kind of dental treatment available that we’re so accustomed to.

Dr. Merriman and many other dentists worked with students, volunteers and locals at the “Peronia Clinicas Dentales.” Patients were given the gift of a new smile and restored health, we made lifelong friends and cherished memories, and everyone left with a humbled sense of accomplishment from helping those less fortunate.

In February of 2018, Dr. Merriman and his team will be returning to Guatemala to volunteer once again in the city of Peronia, as well as visit the ground breaking of the newest Open Wide Clinic in Guatemala.


In February 2015, Dr. Merriman, his wife Kerri and daughter Callie made their third trip to Guatemala to volunteer at the Open Wide Clinic in Peronia. Peronia is a deeply impoverished community of more than 85,000 people. It is located just outside of Guatemala City and it is the third most densely populated city in Central America. Before Open Wide, there were no trained dentists in Peronia. Since the establishment of the Open Wide Clinic, progress has quickened; the national and local governments are taking notice. During Dr. Merriman's visit, the president of Guatemala's brother payed a personal visit to the clinic to welcome the volunteers. Since the opening of this facility in 2012, 125,000 patients have been served.

Dr Merriman and his family were joined by two other dentists and close friends, Dr. Rick Timm from St. Paul, MN and Dr. Everett Heringer from Bismarck, ND. By the end of the week there was much to celebrate in terms of the dentistry accomplished and the great comradeship that automatically happens when people get together in an effort to make a difference in people's lives . In fact, Dr. Merriman and Dr. Timm celebrated their birthdays during the week of the clinic and much to their surprise, were honored with special Guatemalan birthday traditions by the Open Wide staff. Also on hand were four dental students from Guatemala City giving us the opportunity to exchange ideas and techniques with them during the course of the week.

As with other trips, the work is hard and long at the clinic but there is still opportunity to enjoy and to explore this beautiful country, known as the Land of Eternal Spring due to its year round temperate climate. This particular trip was taken during Lent and in Antigua where we stayed there is a strong Catholic presence in the city. As a result, we were fortunate to be able to see many of the ceremonies, processions, and celebrations that take place during this time of year.

As it has happened before, we all agree that coming to Guatemala and treating the wonderful and grateful people here makes us appreciate the conveniences we have at home and makes us thankful that God has given us a skill that we can wholeheartedly share with others in a meaningful way. We barely got on the plane to fly back home before someone says, "OK, when are we all coming back?"