News Feature | December 3, 2014

Oklahoma Takes A Stand Against Fluoride

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Fluoride is added to the tap water supply in most major U.S. cities, but one region stands out when it comes to bucking this standard.

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

Most tap water in Oklahoma is not fluoridated.

"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 report said.

Oklahoma is not alone. According to NPR, "the anti-fluoride movement is gaining steam in the U.S."

There are various reasons a municipality would choose not to fluoridate. The Oklahoman described why a few communities are not fluoridating, per NPR:

Paul Southwick, Fairview city manager, said a few years ago, a tornado damaged the city’s water treatment equipment, leaving them without a way to fluoridate the water.

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

Dale Bunn, Purcell city manager and public works authority general manager, said they stopped fluoridating the water after an equipment failure that would be expensive to replace, probably costing tens of thousands of dollars.

But dental experts say fluoride does not just benefit teeth, it is also a cost saver.

Dr. Jana Winfree, director of dental health service at the state Health Department, said in the report that "for every dollar you invest in community water fluoridation, you save about $38 in dental costs, so that’s one reason it’s a very cost-effective procedure."