Oklahoma health officials are concerned about fewer communities adding fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay, to their water.

According to the state’s health department, about 62 percent of Oklahomans on public water systems have fluoridated water flowing into their homes.

Some Oklahoma communities say they’re opting not to add fluoride to their water because of cost, The Oklahoman reported.

Fairview, a northwestern Oklahoma community with about 2,600 residents, recently stopped fluoridating its water because of a tornado a few years ago. Fairview city manager Paul Southwick said the twister damaged the city’s water treatment equipment and that replacing it would be expensive.

“Before we restart, we want to test our water to see how much natural fluoride is in the water, and we’ll determine then whether we want to go ahead and continue with the fluoridation or not,” Southwick said.

Last year, Lawton officials chose to stop fluoridating the city’s water for cost and infrastructure reasons.

The city started a pilot program in September that substituted fluoride with another chemical, zinc orthophosphate.

Zinc orthophosphate provides more overall benefits than fluoride and also helps improve the health of the city’s pipes, which are almost 90 years old, said Afsaneh Jabbar, assistant director for water and wastewater in Lawton.

“There was enough reasoning and logic behind it — we will be safe if we don’t use (fluoride), especially since we have the naturally occurring fluoride,” Jabbar said.

Water fluoridation has had such an impact in preventing tooth decay that the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention has recognized it as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Communities nationwide have fluoridated their water for the past 65 years.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) —

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