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Guitar Hero

Root canals by day, shredded riffs by night: Dr. steve Dadaian is, in all senses of the term, a rock-star dentist.

DENTISTRY CAME FIRST for Dr. Steve Dadaian as a child, but rock n’ roll wasn’t far behind.

His father, Gary, was a dentist in Cresskill, New Jersey, whose practice, Dadaian Dental, was the location for Steve’s first-ever kindergarten field trip. His interest in the arts was spurred by his mother, Jean, a classical pianist and teacher—but also by his dad’s professional labors. “I saw the fine details my father put into his work,” Dr. Dadaian says. “I was too young to understand all the theory of dentistry, but I could visually see the art in it.” Now 31 years old, he runs Dadaian Dental out of the same Cresskill practice.

“My favorite recent performance was at the Guitar Gods Festival in Miami. I got to open for some of my favorite musicians— members of Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Steve Vai and Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain.”

His “intensive pursuit” of rock glory, meanwhile, began when he was 14. He credits Jimi Hendrix for inspiring his interest and Eddie Van Halen for broadening his understanding of what the guitar could do. Then, while attending Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, Dr. Dadaian met his future residency director, Dr. Phil Terman, who ran a prosthodontic practice in Manhattan—and who was a seasoned professional guitarist as well. (Dr. Dadaian’s recognition of the value of mentoring spurred him to start a program in which students at The College of New Jersey, his undergraduate alma mater, come to his practice and shadow him.)

One day in late 2014, Dr. Dadaian was doing a root canal when he was notified that Rolling Stone magazine had named him one of the top undiscovered guitarists in the U.S. “I think the patient was confused why I was so enthusiastic doing the RCT,” he says, laughing.

Such recognition has paid off for Dr. Dadaian, who is classically trained but calls himself “primarily a modern-rock, progressive-metal player.” He does a lot of session gigs but especially loves playing live. “Some people’s workday is ending at 5 p.m., but sometimes my second workday is just starting,” he says. “My favorite recent performance was at the Guitar Gods Festival in Miami. I got to open for some of my favorite musicians—members of Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Steve Vai and [Iron Maiden’s] Nicko McBrain.”

Just as in his childhood, too, the yin of dentistry still meshes seamlessly with the yang of face-melting solos. “The wonderful thing is, I can still pursue music at a professional level while maintaining my practice,” Dr. Dadaian says. “Music has always been an escape and creative outlet for me; dentistry is another. Often people think of the two as polar opposites. In reality, the two feed each other.” •

Watch Dr. Steve Dadaian go up to 11 via his YouTube channel or on Instagram @SteveDadaian.