The Quebec government will force dentists to stay in the public system after they threatened to leave and not provide free services to children under 10 and those who receive social assistance.

This comes after a day of dueling between the two sides as dental surgeons followed through on threats Thursday morning, withdrawing from the public dental plan.

The president of the Association of Dental Surgeons of Quebec, Serge Langlois, filed the paperwork at 10 a.m., notifying the province of the union’s plans. Langlois met with media afterwards, presenting written testimony from 2,000 dentists who said they were ready to leave the public system should a contract not be reached soon.

Langlois said the tactic is necessary to show their intense displeasure with the government's latest offer.

"Our patients understand the dentists in this situation," he said. "They know we work hard when we treat children."

Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette pushed back in the afternoon, saying it wasn’t going to happen.

“We have the means to sign a decree at the government preventing that from happening, and the decree has already been signed,” he said.

Langlois fired back, saying, “I'm surprised, because he could have waited. He could have waited. He did it the first day. Nothing will change in a dental office for 30 days. We would prefer that Mr. Barrette negotiate with us instead of put in a special law.”

Barrette said the dentists could not eliminate these free services, which would deprive 620,000 Quebecers of free dental care, except in emergency situations.

“It is not the way things should go, to threaten citizens of this province to have their access to services cut,” said Barrette.

On Tuesday, the province’s dentists appealed to Premier Philippe Couillard to intervene in the contentious negotiations that have been ongoing since their agreement with the province expired in April, 2015. They blamed Health Minister Gaetan Barrette for the breakdown in talks, saying he had promoted an atmosphere of repressions and intimidation.

Langlois said the union has compromised but criticized Barrette for trying to impose lower pay on its members, whose average yearly income is $180,000.

On Tuesday, Barrette accused the association of making erroneous statements to the public as negotiations continued.

The deal on the table would reduce the amount of money Medicare would pay for each procedure.

Dentists argue they would be the ones to cover those costs. and that price doesn't change based on the age of the client.

“He has the same operating costs when he has a child on the chair as the private patient,” said Langlois.

The union argues dentists also have to pay to keep on top of operating costs.

“To give proper service, we have to regularly change our equipment, the techniques change, the technology evolves,” he said.

Dentists say there's a 20 per cent gap between what they would normally charge and what the government reimburses them.

“He was not happy with the fact that we're not paying market price. We are paying 20 per cent less than market. It's been like this forever,” said Barrette.

With files from The Canadian Press