The government will not reach its 1990 goal of having 95 percent of Americans who use public water supplies drink fluoridated water to curb tooth decay, officials said.

Despite strong evidence that water fluoridation reduces dental decay, at least 39 percent of people who use public water supplies do not drink fluoridated water, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Thursday.The national objective for dental health was one of 12 for 1990 proposed 10 years ago by federal health officials. The status of six goals were reported in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The government began urging communities nationwide in the early 1950s to enrich their water with the fluorine compound. Every major U.S. health organization, including the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society, has endorsed community fluoridation of public drinking water.

But opponents have argued against fluoridation, saying the substance can cause cancer or contending that fluoride's benefits can be obtained in other ways, such as toothpaste or special applications.

States with the lowest proportion of the population drinking fluoridated water include California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey and Utah, where traditions of resistance to government intervention are strong.