Enter the lobby of the new Valor Dental office Greg Kiene and Chris Merkley opened four miles south of Justin on FM 156, and you’ll immediately notice this practice is different.
The inviting couches and unique wall sign provide the first clue. There’s the display about its partnership supporting Camp Summit in Paradise, Texas, and another area honoring the owners’ Army service. That’s even before seeing the themed patient rooms. What truly sets this practice apart is the people and the vision that created it.
The Kiene and Merkley families met in church in 2018 while stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Living across the street from each other with complementing families of five kids, each the same age, they quickly became friends. That was on top of working at the same clinic as highly-trained dentists.
“I spent almost every waking moment around Greg,” said Merkley, 35. “We found we got along really, really well.”
“We worked well together. We enjoyed just the time at the clinic and family time,” added Kiene, 37.
Merkley served six years in the Army until 2021, and Kiene’s five-year service ended in 2019.
“At the time we had individual plans of what we wanted to do after the military. It wasn’t until after his plan started falling through that he came and approached me,” Merkley said.
With similar goals and a shared dream of creating a practice that would be a light to the community, it was shortly decided to be partners.
After potential properties fell through in 2019, they acquired their current spot with the goal of opening in March 2020. Then COVID-19 hit and delayed those plans. It was a long and frustrating process, but the end result was worth the wait as these veteran partners raised their giant 40-foot American flag and opened last August. After starting with only two staff, they are expanding to five this month and are open Mondays through Fridays.
“It’s a joint effort,” Kiene said “Really the military helped with that team process. The idea is no one is going to be offended by a dumb or smart idea. What’s made our partnership work is the willingness to be humble.”
That past also includes serving two-year church missions – Kiene in Argentina and Merkley in Peru. A big part of their shared vision was a desire to continue serving the community beyond their past military and church service. With Merkley’s younger brother having autism, they chose to partner with Camp Summit, donating a percentage of every new patient’s initial exam fee to the facility.
“Doing dentistry is fun and obviously supporting your family, but I have found money doesn’t bring me happiness and joy as much as helping other people,” Merkley said. “Greg is along the same line. As we discussed, the name Valor Dental stands for more than just dentistry, we wanted to give back and looked for a good fit.
“His wife Aubrey’s undergraduate degree is in recreational therapy, so they tried to create adaptive sports and activities for people with challenges…and spent two summers at a summer camp working with people with disabilities similar to Camp Summit.
“For me, my little brother is autistic and growing up I could go to summer camps and have fun but he couldn’t.”
Camp Summit offers a safe, barrier-free experience for those with disabilities, and the Valor team loves to include their patients in providing “camperships” through their donations.
Valor Dental also aims to serve its patients and features a number of amenities, including ear plugs, televisions, warm blankets and towels, stress balls, and sedation to make patients feel more comfortable. It offers emergency and cosmetic services, veneers, implants, crowns and bridges, clear aligner therapy, oral surgery, and treatments for sleep apnea. Plus, both Keene and Merkley are fluent in Spanish.
“We tell people we know going to the dentist sucks. It just does,” Merkley said. “So we try to make it suck a little less. The way we do that is offering some comfort.”
Valor Dental is an exciting new addition to the Justin and Northwest Fort Worth community. They “walk the walk” as they aim to live up to their tagline, “Forging Joy By Serving.”